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UN: Government Opponents, Activists in Iran Face Harsh Punishment

An Iranian man visits on Sept. 2, 2014 the "Qasr prison," a former prison hosting political prisoners that was turned into a museum in 2012 in the Iranian capital Tehran.

A report submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council Monday documents the harsh treatment and abusive conditions of detention facing activists and opponents of the Iranian government.

Evidence documented in the U.N. report suggests that Iran brooks no dissent and that those who commit acts that displease the government will be harshly punished.

Arbitrarily arrested and imprisoned

U.N. special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran, Javaid Rehman, notes people who have peacefully protested for better economic conditions have been arbitrarily arrested and imprisoned. Others detained include Iranian women who have protested against wearing the veil, human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists and those who seemingly oppose the government.

He says ethnic and religious minorities also are among a long list of dissidents who run afoul of the Iranian authorities and are often imprisoned. Rehman says he is deeply concerned about what he considers to be sub-human conditions of detention. He says the frequent use of solitary confinement and the use of torture to extract forced confessions are alarming.

“Overcrowding, poor nutrition and a lack of hygiene are also serious concerns. These issues indicate a high risk to prisoners’ health from malnutrition and disease. Recent reports indicate that the COVID-19 virus has spread inside Iranian prisons.”

The latest report by the World Health Organization puts the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in Iran at 5,823, including 145 deaths.

Death sentences for children

The U.N. investigator also expresses dismay that children are still being sentenced to death. He notes international law absolutely prohibits applying the death penalty to juvenile offenders. And yet, he says, two Iranian boys aged 17 were executed last year and more than 100 child offenders reportedly are on death row.

He urges Iran to uphold its human rights obligations and to bring detention conditions and practices up to international standards.

Iranian Ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva Esmacil Bagbace Hamanch dismisses the report as another targeted display of abusive misinformation about the state of human rights in his country.

He describes the report as a patchwork of sporadic cases of alleged violations with the help of biased sources. He says the report is far from being a faithful reflection of Iran’s continuing progress in the realm of human rights.