|Economic and Social||Distr.|
|21 March 1996|
Report on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, prepared by the Special Representative of the Commission on Human Rights, Mr.Maurice Copithorne (Canada), pursuant to Commission resolution 1995/68 of 8 March 1995 and Economic and Social Council decision 1995/279 of 25 July 1995
In March 1995, after nine years of service, Mr.Reynaldo Galindo Pohl (El Salvador) submitted his resignation as Special Representative. In August 1995, the Chairman of the Commission on Human Rights, Mr.Musa bin Hitam, appointed Mr.Maurice Copithorne (Canada) to replace Mr.Galindo Pohl. Mr.Copithorne submitted a brief report to the General Assembly at its fiftieth session in November 1995 (A/50/661) and undertook to submit his first substantive report to the Commission on Human Rights at its fifty second session in the spring of 1996.The Special Representative notes that the human rights situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran has been on the agenda of the Commission since 1982 and that the Commission first established the position of Special Representative in 1984. It is a subject that clearly continues to be of very great interest to many Governments, organizations and private individuals. This attention reflects a wide range of concerns, some of a personal nature, some of a political nature, many of a humanitarian nature. In the Special Representative's view, the politicized tone of much of the dialogue is so pervasive that human rights are in danger of becoming a vehicle rather than an end in themselves. The Special Representative's function as he sees it is to bring the status of human rights into clear focus and to provide some indication of areas where progress is being made and areas where further progress is needed in order to meet prevailing international standards, particularly as they apply to the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Human rights in their most fundamental form are usually associated with respect for human dignity, a reflection of the inherent worth of every human being. There seems no gainsaying this basic fact. There also seems to be little dispute that the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are the starting point for determining the norms, some general, some specific, that the world community as a whole has articulated. From the beginning, however, it was evident that a more precise articulation would be needed. The result of course was the long debate and the eventual emergence of the two Covenants, international agreements to which States were invited to commit themselves. Today some 131 States are parties to the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and 133 States are parties to the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Since the Covenants were drafted, many other human rights conventions have been prepared and many of these are in force. Those agreements to which the Islamic Republic of Iran is party are listed in annex I.
Taken together, these documents represent the international community's efforts to set in legislative form the norms and in some cases the procedures to be followed by States. The texture of this regime is rich and complex. It is in some parts vague enough to give rise to different interpretations. Taken as a whole, however, it is clearly an expression of the world community's commitment to the dignity of the individual.
Two further points should perhaps be made at this stage. First, there is a recognized role for the regions in the articulation of human rights norms and procedures; some have chosen to supplement the universal commitments of their member States by creating additional ones of a regional nature. It is widely believed that, in these regional regimes, the distinctive culture and values of the region can be meaningfully expressed.
The second point is to acknowledge that for some States at least the central issue appears to be can universal human rights exist at all in a culturally diverse world? Some of them argue that the culture of the member State must be the optic through which its international commitments are assessed. Others however say that the Universal Declaration represents a consensus on human dignity broader than any specific culture or tradition. And indeed the 1993 Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action declares in its paragraph 5, that "All human rights are universal, indivisible and interdependent and interrelated" (A/CONF.157/24, Part I). The Special Representative shares the view of those who believe that universal human rights do not impose a single cultural standard, but rather a single legal standard affording the minimum protection necessary for human dignity. In the words of a recent United Nations background note: "Traditional culture is not a substitute for human rights; it is a cultural context in which human rights must be established, integrated, promoted and protected. Human rights must be approached in a way that is meaningful and relevant in diverse cultural contexts" (DPI/1627/HR).
In seeking to fulfil his mandate, the Special Representative has looked to many sources for information including:
Most information has come to the Special Representative's attention in written form through the mail or by facsimile. In addition, he received direct representations in New York and in Geneva. Most importantly, in February 1996 he spent six days in the Islamic Republic of Iran at the invitation of the Iranian Government.
With regard to specific allegations, the Special Representative shares the view of his predecessor that, while it is important to exercise caution in accepting unsubstantiated accounts of human rights violations, it would be wrong to exclude an allegation solely because it was presumed to be politically biased, lacking in detail indeed generally improbable.
Much of the information provided to the Special Representative concerns the 10year period or so following the revolution. Many of the informants are private individuals, who allege that they or a family member were mistreated, even tortured, by one, two or, in some cases, three different Governments or political groups, before and after the revolution. In some cases such persons died while in detention. In most cases the complainants want the treatment made known and those responsible punished. The Special Representative took careful note of all such allegations and has no reason to doubt that much mistreatment occurred. Much of it is recorded in his predecessor's reports. However, the current Special Representative considers that his primary responsibility is to report on the situation since the final report of his predecessor, namely the period from January 1995 to February 1996.
The Special Representative travelled to Geneva from 3 to 6 September 1995 in order to hold consultations with the Centre for Human Rights, the Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations Office at Geneva, officials of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and officials of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) as well as to start to familiarize himself with the area covered by his mandate.
On 24 November 1995, the Special Representative introduced his interim report to the Third Committee of the General Assembly (A/50/661). During his stay in New York, he held interviews with the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations and representatives of some non-governmental organizations (NGOs) based or represented in North America, among them, Article 19 International Centre against Censorship, Human Rights Watch/Middle East and the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights. The Special Representative also received representations from the National Council of Resistance of Iran, the National Committee on Women for a Democratic Iran, the Association of Iranian Scholars and Journalists, as well as private individuals.
The Special Representative visited Geneva again from 15 to 19 January 1996 in order to consult with the Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran, UNHCR, Amnesty International and the Office of the Baha'i International Community. The Special Representative also received representations from 24 witnesses: 5 presented by the National Council of Resistance of Iran; 16 members of a delegation of former members of the People's Mujahedin of Iran and 3 on an individual basis.
Of the witnesses interviewed, the following agreed to have their names published in the present report: Mohammad Tafiq Asadri, Nadereh Afshankharghani, Azar Babai, Ikbal Babain, Majid Farahami, Karim Haggi-Moni, Hadi Shams Ha'eri, Hassan Hatami, Habib Khorami, Sayid Akbar Mehdyar, AbbasNazem, Jamshid Tafriski and Nahid Zandaj.
On 18 January 1996, the Special Representative received a written invitation to visit the Islamic Republic of Iran. The visit took place from 10 to 16 February 1996; the official and the private programmes are reproduced in annexes II and III respectively. The Special Representative was not able to have interviews with the President or VicePresident of the Supreme Court of Justice, the Chairman or ViceChairman of the Council of Guardians and the Minister or ViceMinister of the Interior. All the other high authorities and officials with whom the Special Representative sought meetings met with him.
After his visit, the Special Representative again visited Geneva from 16 to 21 February 1996 in order to draft the present report and hold consultations related to the fulfilment of his mandate.
During the period from 1 August 1995 to 9 February 1996, the Special Representative received 271 letters from individuals setting out various problems, some of them directly related to human rights violations. During his visit to the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Special Representative received 72 additional letters from individuals.
In addition, the Special Representative has received 65 letters from the following NGOs since 1 August 1995: Amnesty International, Anglican Communion, Association of Iranian Scholars and Professionals, Association to Defend Human Rights in Iran (from Montreal), About Iran, Baha'i International Community, Campaign for the Defence of Political Prisoners, Centre for the Defence of Democracy in Iran, Christian Solidarity International, Comitato Mohammad Hossein Naghdi contro il terrorismo di stato e per i diritti umani in Iran, Committee for the Defence of the Iranian People's Rights, Committee to Protect Journalists, Community of Iranian Students, Constitutionalist Movement of Iran, Council for the Defence of Religious Leaders, Council of Shia Muslims in the UnitedStates of America, Canada and Europe, Defenders of Islam in Iran, Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan, Foundation for Democracy in Iran, Inc., Dr. Homa Darabi Foundation, Human Rights Watch/Middle East, International Federation of Human Rights, International Federation of Iranian Refugees and Immigrants Council, International Pen - Writers in Prison Committee, Iranian Community Centre, Jubilee Campaign, Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran (Revolutionary Leadership), League for the Defence of Human Rights in Iran, International League for the Rights and Liberation of Peoples, National Committee of Women for Democratic Iran, National Council of Resistance of Iran, Organisation des droits de l'homme et des libertés fondamentales pour l'Iran, Organization for Defending Victims of Violence, Organization of Iranian People's Fedaian (Majority), Parliamentary Human Rights Group of the House of Commons and World Federation of Democratic Youth.
In approaching his mandate, the Special Representative identified a number of general questions:
The Special Representative's programme in the Islamic Republic of Iran placed substantial emphasis on discussions with senior government officials, ministers, viceministers and senior judges. The Special Representative recognizes that such contacts are not likely to provide a comprehensive picture of a society. Nevertheless, he believes that this was the appropriate starting point. A sixday visit to a society as rich and complex as that of the Islamic Republic of Iran can only be an introduction. He looks upon his visit in this light and hopes there will be an opportunity within the next 12months for a longer visit in order to deepen his understanding, particularly by broadening his range of contacts and visiting places outside Tehran. In this regard, the Special Representative has identified some of the subject areas he would like to examine at that time (see annex IV).
As indicated above, during his February visit to the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Special Representative met with many senior officials. A dominant theme in the presentations to him was what was perceived to be the unfairness of the special procedures mechanism, particularly that of country rapporteurs. The unfairness was seen to lie in the failure to measure the practices of the Islamic Republic of Iran in relation to those of other States both in the world generally and in the region in particular.
There was also frequent reference to what was viewed as the politicization of the decisionmaking process in the Commission on Human Rights to the point, it was said, that it mattered more who a State's friends and allies were than the nature and seriousness of the alleged practices. In other words, double standards were widespread.
Another theme was the uniqueness of the Iranian revolution and the dominant role of religion in the Islamic Republic of Iran's system of governance. Frequent reference was made to the need to judge the Islamic Republic of Iran and by extension, other States, in the context of their own culture.
On one occasion, the argument was put that the special procedures mechanism was intended to respond to gross and systematic violations of human rights and that while there might well be "irregularities" in the case of the Islamic Republic of Iran, they were hardly of a gross and systematic nature.
The Special Representative did not believe it was his place to do other than take note of those views, which are of course not new. On occasion, however, he did suggest to his counterparts that, in his opinion, national and international efforts for recognition and enforcement of human rights were continuing around the world and he was unaware of any State that was not under some degree of criticism in this regard.
The legal, judicial and correctional services in any society usually offer a revealing look at the value placed upon human rights by the Government of the State concerned. The Special Representative attaches much importance to this dimension of his inquiries in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
One commonly accepted right is to be charged or released within a minimum period. This is viewed as an important constraint on a State's use of arbitrary detention. In the Islamic Republic of Iran, there continue to be reports of prolonged pretrial detention, indeed seven years in one high profile case now before the courts (see paras. 34 and 35 below).
The right to be represented by a lawyer of the accused's choice is also viewed as essential:
There appear to be many judicial and quasijudicial tribunals in the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Special Representative was able to meet with the chief judge of the Tehran District Revolutionary Courts, the chief judge of the Tehran Justice Department (i.e. the General Courts for the Tehran District), the Minister of Justice and the Chief of the Administrative Tribunal. The President of the Supreme Court was unable to meet as scheduled.
Mr. Rahbar Poor, head of the Revolutionary Courts of the Tehran District, explained that those courts had been established originally to study cases of persons who had violated human rights under the previous regime. Their jurisdiction had later been extended to terrorist groups in order to protect the human rights of the people. In 1995, there had been a new law defining the jurisdiction as drugs, espionage, smuggling and economic terrorism. Mr.Rahbar Poor said the procedure followed in the Revolutionary Court was at present no different from that in the General Courts. There was a right to a lawyer and a right of appeal and any sentence over 10 years was automatically reviewed by the Supreme Court. The Special Representative asked about the continuation of the Revolutionary Courts so long after the revolution and about the debate in the Majlis about making them permanent. He was told there had indeed been a debate and, in the end, provided that those courts should have the same legal process as the General Courts, their maintenance had been approved. The Special Representative questioned what was inherent in the offences in question that made them more appropriate for the Revolutionary Courts than the General Courts. The answer was that the competence of the Revolutionary Courts was really quite limited, that they were comparable to the military courts under the previous regime and that, with crime becoming more specialized, there existed a need for specialized tribunals such as those that existed for family and military matters. The Special Representative remains to be persuaded that the Revolutionary Courts are just one among many tribunals and that the processes are indeed in practice the same as those in the General Courts.
The Special Representative spent about 45 minutes attending a current trial, over which Mr. Rahbar Poor was presiding. This was the fourth session of the trial, which had been prominently covered in the Tehran press. The charges concerned embezzlement, bribery, smuggling and other activities presented as an intricate network of illegal activity linked to zionism. The purpose of the session appeared to be to give the defendants a chance to respond to the allegations. In the time the Special Representative was present, three of the defendants were heard as well as several of the lawyers and experts. There were lively exchanges between those defendants who spoke and the judge, apparently over the appropriateness of their respective lines of defence, which, among other things, included shifting blame among each other. In the course of this dialogue, the judge noted that there had already been private sessions and that there could be more. He stated that matters affecting "public morality" should not be brought up in open court.
On another occasion, the Special Representative had a two-hour discussion with Mr. Ali Razini, the Chief of the Tehran Justice Department, i.e. the General Courts for the Tehran District. Mr. Razini said his courts heard about 50,000 cases a month in 14 centres across Tehran District. His court had broad competence; the other tribunals were limited to exceptional competences. There had been a recent change in procedure that affected mainly the pretrial phase. The investigating judge function now came under the responsibility of the trial judge rather than the prosecutor's office. The purpose was to simplify the process and shorten the time. Previously, the pretrial phase had sometimes lasted up to 10 years and, in some cases, persons had been kept in detention for over a year before being released without charges being formulated. The Special Representative would note that the press has reported criticism of the recent changes.
In response to questions, Mr. Razini said it was true that in the early days there was no right of appeal. Today, there was no limit on appeals. "I know of no case of a murder conviction not being appealed." With regard to the right to a lawyer, Mr. Razini said, "It is a right of an accused, not only of a condemned man." The Special Representative questioned the concept of "economic sabotage or terrorism" as distinct from commercial crime. Mr.Razini said that intent was the key factor in determining which court would hear the case. He acknowledged that intent was difficult to establish with certainty, adding that the accused would get the benefit of the doubt and, in any event, he could appeal the matter of competence. He said that there were few cases of economic terrorism, perhaps only 10 at the present time. They typically involved crimes like counterfeiting or embezzlement where substantial amounts were involved and which took place in time of war or where enemies of the State were involved. The Special Representative believes further inquiry into this matter is warranted.
The Special Representative also met with the Minister of Justice, Mr.Esmail Shushtari. He described a problem that had existed formerly: the interference by the executive and the legislature in the administration of justice. That had changed and there were now no instances of such interference.
The primary problem for the Ministry now was the recruitment and training of judges. There was a need to recruit 600 judges within two years, of whom 200were to be women and 400 secular men. At the moment there were about 4,000 judges, about 800 of whom were clerics and 300 women.
He explained the training process in some detail. The qualifications were either a four-year university degree in law, or religious studies and jurisprudence, or nine years of training at a religious school. The entrance exam looked for a logical mind and manner of expression. The accepted candidates went through a one-year training programme with theoretical and practical stages. The failure rate was 2 to 3 per cent. Once appointed, judges worked their way up through eight steps. There was a promotion board chaired by the Chief of the Judiciary. Generally, one spent four years in the first step as a minimum and three years in each subsequent step. In some exceptional cases (less than 10 per cent), there was a direct appointment to a tribunal of an individual who had not gone through all the preceding stages. There was some continuing education for judges but, because of the shortage of judges, only about five could be released for that purpose each year. Judicial discipline was the responsibility of the Judges' Disciplinary Tribunal. The judges were themselves judges of a rank superior to that of the person charged.
The Special Representative notes that, in addition to the tribunal referred to in the preceding paragraph, a superior tribunal was established in 1991: the High Tribunal for Judicial Discipline. The head of the judiciary is reportedly able to recommend dismissal on the basis of "religious considerations". The Special Representative believes that further inquiry into this subject of judicial discipline is warranted in the context of judicial independence.
The Special Representative understands that some but not all clerical judges are university graduates in law. He notes that in the past persons with minimum experience and sometimes little formal education were reportedly appointed as judges. The Special Representative believes it important that judges be recruited solely on the basis of their professional experience and competence. With regard to female judges, the Special Representative noted critical comments in the press that in last year's competitive examination for 50 female judges, there was no published list of applicants to be interviewed but only the names of the 18 persons eventually chosen. The official concerned in the Ministry was quoted as saying that acceptance depended on obtaining the required mark in the examination.
In his interview with Ayatollah Yazdi, the head of the Judiciary, the Special Representative sought information about the clerics court, a tribunal in the spotlight recently because of certain high-profile defendants there. Ayatollah Yazdi said there were only 15 or 16 cases before that court at any given time in the country as a whole. On the question of competence, he said that the clerical courts only heard charges relating to the discharge of clerical responsibilities but that there might in addition be "incidental" or non-clerical dimensions. As those cases often involved "the prestige" of the clergy, the court was not open to the media nor were the decisions made public. The same conditions applied to the military courts. As to the right to have a lawyer, as reported above, he said the accused had the right to choose from a limited group of approved lawyers. The Special Representative's understanding is that this tribunal was established in 1987 and became active after 1989. In the only recent case brought to his attention, a cleric and member of the Majlis was reported by the press in February 1995 to have been sentenced to 30 lashes and a year in prison for taking bribes. The Special Representative would like to examine more closely the workings of this and other special tribunals.
On the matter of the newly confirmed Ta'azirat punishments, which have drawn adverse comments outside the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Yazdi said many conditions have to be met before these punishments can be carried out. For example, in his five or six years in office, he had known of only two or three proposals for amputation. Ayatollah Yazdi said he had authority to intervene and press the complainant to settle the matter (i.e. on the basis of blood money) and he frequently did so. The Special Representative reiterated to Ayatollah Yazdi the request he had put earlier for detailed statistics on a national basis for the carrying out of judgements involving amputations and stoning.
The Special Representative's predecessor commented more than once on the number of judicial executions and the fact that their use greatly exceeded the very restricted terms of the Covenant. On this visit, the Special Representative pressed in writing and orally for firm numbers on death sentences carried out for drug offences and for all other offences. On at least one occasion, he referred to a widely quoted story in the official Chinese news agency in November 1995 that a senior Iranian official had advised his Chinese hosts that, since 1989, some 4,000 persons had been executed for drug offences in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The Special Representative is informed that, under Iranian legislation, specifically the law of Hodoud and Qesas and the Ta'azirat, sometimes described collectively as the Islamic Penal Code of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the death penalty may be applied for the following offences: spreading corruption on Earth (mofsed); assassination; armed robbery; kidnapping; rape; adultery or incest, sexual relations by force or coercion and by a non-Muslim man with a Muslim woman; sodomy; apostasy; drug-trafficking and the use of arms to create fear and intimidation among the people or depriving them of their freedom and security. In addition, the law of retributory punishment establishes that a premeditated murder involves retribution and that the heirs of the murdered person may put the murderer to death with due observance of the conditions established by law. Premeditated murder and mayhem or inflicting of injury to a limb are also punishable by retribution.
On 28 November 1995, the Majlis adopted a new law of Islamic punishments which establishes that the death penalty may be applied to the following additional crimes: attempts against the security of the State; outrage against Iranian high-ranking officials and insults against the memory of ImamKhomeini and against the Leader of the Islamic Republic.
According to information published in the Iranian and the international press, at least 50 persons were executed in the Islamic Republic of Iran during 1995. Fifteen executions took place in public. Thirty-eight persons were hanged and one person was stoned to death. Another person was executed after receiving 80 lashes. The cases reported in the Iranian and international press are reproduced in annex V. The Special Representative requested the Government to provide official information on the number of executions that had been carried out since the beginning of the Iranian year 1373. The Human Rights Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs advised that, in Tehran Province, 30 persons had been executed on drugtrafficking charges since the beginning of the Iranian year 1374 (21 March 1995). In terms of the Gregorian calendar, 35 persons were executed during 1995 in Tehran Province on charges of drugtrafficking.
During his meeting with the head of the Courts of Justice of Tehran Province, Judge Razini, the Special Representative was informed that death sentences must be reviewed by the Supreme Court. In trials relating to serious offences potentially involving the death penalty, the presence of a defence lawyer is compulsory. According to Ayatollah Yazdi, several conditions must be fulfilled to condemn a person to death. In cases of retribution, the relatives of the victim may require financial compensation or equal punishment. In many cases, the head of the Judiciary has intervened with the relatives to press them not to ask for equal punishment. In addition, Ayatollah Yazdi said, in an Islamic law system, all the sentences should be proportional to the charges and the judges should consider in each case three elements: the personal element (age, level of education, health, other personal particularities), the crime itself and the intention or reason for which the crime was committed.
The head of the Islamic Revolutionary Courts of Tehran, Judge Rahbar Poor, stated that the application of the death penalty should be examined in the context of the number of serious crimes being committed. The IslamicRepublic of Iran is a major transit country for drugs from Afghanistan and Pakistan to Turkey and Europe. Although the situation was much better than 10years ago, 120,000 tons of drugs were captured during the past Iranian year. The 30 to 35 persons executed over the same period were not simply local drugtraffickers, but members of armed international gangs engaged in international trade that constituted authentic mafias.
The Special Representative believes that further inquiry into the subject of the death penalty is warranted in the context of the Covenant provisions on this subject.
The Special Representative met with the President of the Independent Bar Association, Mr. Eftekhar Jahromi, and three deputy heads of the Association. Mr. Jahromi reported the Bar Association now has offices in Tehran, Tabriz and Shiraz. There are 2,310 registered lawyers in the area centred on Tehran, 288in the area centred on Tabriz and 216 in the area centred on Shiraz. Of the total, 234 are women. The Association runs training courses, issues permits to practice and considers complaints against lawyers. There are currently 619 trainees in the threeregions undergoing a year's training course. The Association does not get involved in the work of lawyers, who are free to accept or to turn down a case. Mr. Jahromi said that the Board of Directors of the Association would be elected every two years. After some delay, the first election for the position of President was to be held in the current year. Ayatollah Yazdi subsequently confirmed that elections would go ahead as scheduled.
The Special Representative then turned to the role of lawyers, especially at the pretrial stage. Mr. Jahromi said a new law less than a year old is ambiguous on this point. "You cannot say at what stage a lawyer can intervene." With regard to a case of a seven-year pretrial detention, he said that should not happen, that it would also be a violation of normal judicial process. It would also be a violation of both legal and religious decrees and that the system "cannot detain a person for a long time on the basis of suspicion alone".
As to the Association's major challenge, Mr. Jahromi said it was to increase the respect of the judiciary for lawyers. The Association would intervene with the judiciary as appropriate cases came along.
The Special Representative believes that further inquiry is warranted to determine whether the Independent Bar Association is playing a significant role in establishing and maintaining the integrity of the legal system in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
It would seem that a number of new laws have been enacted or old ones revised in recent years that affect the nature of the legal process in the Islamic Republic Iran. It also seems that some relevant provisions of the Constitution are perhaps now being actively implemented. On the other hand, there continue to be press references to senior personages engaging in public incitement to take extrajudicial action for example against "corruption", such as that attributed to Ayatollah Janati at a Tehran University prayers sermon in August 1995. And there seem to be groups, most notably the hezbollah, who are prepared to respond to such incitement.
The Special Representative nevertheless believes he detected an atmosphere for change. One of his Iranian interlocutors preferred the term maturation. He noted that norms were now being more clearly articulated and suggested that that was because of a clear need for a more uniform application of the law. The sense of arbitrariness that the Special Representative felt he detected was not a reflection of a concern over the security situation but of the strongly held view that Islamic theory required a highly independent judiciary. In the Special Representative's opinion it is too soon to say that a fully defined legal system, with a truly independent judiciary, true respect for the rights of individuals, particularly at the pretrial phase, and other hallmarks of a credible legal system are in place.
The position of women in the Islamic Republic of Iran received much international press attention in the context of the Beijing women's conference in September 1995. The dialogue there continued the discussion that has been going on for some years about the status of women in Muslim countries and, in particular, in the Islamic Republic of Iran. It is a multifaceted dialogue heavily infused with politics and, at least on the part of the Muslim countries, accusations of unfair international press coverage.
At one level, the dialogue is about secularism and religion with the argument being roughly that the West is paying a heavy price for moving insistently down the road towards absolute secularism, particularly in the deterioration of the social fabric of Western societies. This is not an error that the Muslim societies want to repeat and they therefore insist on maintaining certain traditional values associated with women and with the family generally. At a second level, the dialogue is about whether the status of women in developing countries is a product of traditional culture and religion, or whether it is the result of poverty and illiteracy generally in these societies. At a third level, the debate is about the quite different status of culture or custombased norms on the one hand and religionbased norms on the other. It is argued that, while the latter are incontrovertible, the former can and are being changed. At a fourth level, the debate is about two different concepts: equality versus equity. Some Muslim women, in this case Iranian women, deny attempts to "similarize" women with men in all dimensions, in other words to create "identicality" of rights and obligations between men and women. They argue that the Islamic system reflects, or at least is intended to reflect, the fact that men and women are equal in creation and in human value, and that they should be regarded as two beings at the same level of understanding and cognition. Consequently, they bear a comparable weight of responsibilities and enjoy comparable benefits although in different spheres of life.
The debate in all its complexity, and no doubt with a considerable measure of misunderstanding, will go on for some time to come. For this reason the Special Representative would simply take note of the results of the 1995 Beijing Conference in the form of the Platform for Action that was adopted unanimously (A/CONF.177/20).
However, the Special Representative believes it important to note that there seem to be some areas where an improvement of the status of women in the Islamic Republic of Iran is actively being discussed, if not necessarily at the level of government policy. One of these concerns the restrictions on the social activities of women and on their travel. One women's group in the Islamic Republic of Iran has said openly that such provisions imply that women cannot accept social obligations and responsibilities. The same group acknowledges that there exist some widespread interpretations in the Islamic world that tend to extend the limits, for example of a wife's obligation to obey her husband, to the point of absolute compliance. In a third area, that of temporary marriage, the same group has noted the genderbiased social and religious misinterpretations that exist. It would seem then that change might well come to pass in these areas without being viewed as infringements on religious precepts.
On the other hand, there are a number of areas in which religion rather than custom or culture are said to prevail, such as the Islamic covering or dress for women and inheritance. However, the Special Representative has been told that even in the former there could be room for accommodation based on the fact that there were traditionally in the Islamic Republic of Iran many types of Islamic covering or dress, which varied according to the custom of the particular region, and that, as between types, there should not be an argument based on religion. Another interlocutor, a prominent woman, said that there were those who put women under pressure in that regard but that, while she herself wore the chador, in her view women should be left free to choose the type of covering or dress they wanted.
The Special Representative inquired about Iranian nationality law, and in particular about the fact that foreign women, on marrying an Iranian national, reportedly automatically acquire Iranian citizenship, but that the same does not apply when a foreign man marries an Iranian woman. One of the Special Representative's interlocutors, a woman holding a senior if nongovernmental position, expressed surprise saying that in her view Muslim women were indeed free to choose or reject a nationality. Another interlocutor, also in a nongovernmental position, suggested that the problem of change in those areas, such as the requirement for a husband to sign his wife's passport application, reflected a need to educate members of the Majlis and other political elites on such inequities. This seems to be borne out by reports that, several years ago, the Majlis turned down a proposal to allow unmarried female students to go abroad for further studies.
The Special Representative believes that the status of women in the Islamic Republic of Iran is indeed not equal to that of men in very many ways. Nevertheless, according to his interlocutors, in some areas at least, significant progress could be made without touching upon Islamic precepts. However, leadership for such change will have to come from political elites and progress in this direction should be monitored.
The Special Representative notes the widespread condemnation of the fatwa issued in 1989 against the British writer Salman Rushdie. He also notes that over the past year there have been contradictory signals on this subject from various authorities in the Islamic Republic of Iran. In this context, he doubts the meaningfulness of statements to the effect that, although the fatwa remains in effect, no order has been given to carry it out. During his visit, the Special Representative raised the matter of the fatwa with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Ali Akbar Velayati. The Special Representative was told that negotiations on an exchange of letters between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the European Union had made much progress and that the Iranian side wanted to conclude this exchange as soon as possible. Separate inquiries by the Special Representative during his visit to Tehran suggested there were still matters of substance separating the twosides.
The Special Representative wishes to record his own condemnation of the threat upon the life of Mr. Rushdie; he shares the view of those who judge the fatwa and the offered reward as an incitement to murder. He does not accept the argument that, if Mr. Rushdie is acknowledged to have a right of free speech in these circumstances, then so too do those who condemn him to death.
The Special Representative has read the report of the Special Rapporteur on the question of religious intolerance on his recent visit to the Islamic Republic of Iran (E/CN.4/1996/95/Add.2) and wishes to associate himself with the conclusions and recommendations contained therein concerning the nonrecognized minorities and the Baha'is in particular.
The only additional argument put to the Special Representative by his Iranian official interlocutors was that the Baha'is in the Islamic Republic of Iran were attempting to achieve de facto status as a recognized minority by such actions, it was implied, as completing the religion section on various government forms, including passport applications. It was suggested that to respond to such a question with the name of an unrecognized religion was attempting to obtain constitutional recognition for that religion. The Special Representative does not accept this reasoning.
During his visit to Evin prison in Tehran, the Special Representative requested private meetings with Mr. Kayvan Khalajabadi and Mr.Bihnam Mithaqi, two members of the Baha'i community who were arrested in April 1989 and sentenced to death on 8 December 1993 by the Islamic Revolutionary Court of Tehran. The Special Representative was granted access to these persons and spent 30 minutes with each in private. They each said the conditions in Evin prison had improved somewhat recently. Both sentences were being appealed to the Supreme Court. Decisions had been pending since February 1994 (see paras.97 and 98 below).
The Special Representative also requested information from the Iranian authorities on the situation of Mr. Dhabihu'llah Mahrami, son of Ghumalrida, a Baha'i born in the Iranian year of 1325, sentenced to death on 2 January 1996 on charges of apostasy by Branch No. 1 of the Revolutionary Court of Yazd. On 19 February 1996, the Human Rights Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs informed the Special Representative that the Supreme Court of Justice had not confirmed the death sentence, had rejected the verdict and had referred the case to a competent court in Yazd for reconsideration. The Supreme Court cited the Revolutionary Court's lack of competence to hear this case.
The Special Representative notes that Baha'is apparently continue to face discrimination in the Iranian court system. In one case brought to his attention dated 14 September 1995 in Yazd, an application by a widower and children for succession rights to a deceased's property was refused on the grounds that the deceased as well as the husband and children were Baha'is. The property was confiscated for the benefit of a government-related trust. In another case of May 1995, a court in ShahriRay was faced with an application by the nextofkin of a person killed and a second person injured in a motorcycle accident. On the basis of the confessions of the accused and other evidence, the crime of manslaughter and the crime of unpremeditated injury were found to be proven against the defendants, but the request for "blood money" was denied on the grounds that the deceased as well as the injured and the nextofkin were Baha'is. One defendant was sentenced to pay 400,000 rials and a second to pay 100,000 rials to a government fund.
With regard to discrimination in employment, a letter was brought to the Special Representative's attention dated 11 January 1995 from the University of Medical Sciences and HealthCare Services in the province of Khuzistan, denying reinstatement to a Baha'i who had been earlier dismissed from his position as a nurse's aide, unless he renounced the Baha'i religion in a "widely distributed newspaper".
On 12 February 1996, the Special Representative discussed with three members of the Baha'i community in Tehran issues of continuing concern such as confiscation of properties belonging to Baha'is in the city of Yazd, obtaining passports to make visits outside the Islamic Republic of Iran, payment of pensions to retired Baha'is, access to higher education and the right to inheritance. Particular concern was expressed with regard to the right of the Baha'i community to maintain its administrative institutions.
Overall, while there appears to be some improvement in the lot of the Baha'is in the Islamic Republic of Iran, there continue to be grave breaches of human rights, which in the Special Representative's view are only likely to disappear with a significant change of attitude on the part of the Iranian authorities.
As the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression has very recently visited the Islamic Republic of Iran and is submitting a report to the Commission at its fiftysecond session (E/CN.4/1996/39/Add.2), the Special Representative has chosen to place his emphasis on other sectors. However, very recently, two court cases involving press freedom came to the fore and were the subject of a number of representations to the Special Representative before his arrival in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
These involve two periodicals, Gardoon in Tehran and Tous in Mashhad. Although the publications are reportedly somewhat different, the issue presented was essentially the same: the trial, sentencing and punishment of the publishers/editors over the content of articles appearing in the journal. This process can be, and in those cases was, initiated by a complaint by members of the public. A hearing and conviction by jury followed. The final stage, the sentencing by the judge, might include a period of incarceration, a lashing and a suspension of the publication. The Special Representative was told that such convictions and the subsequent sentences are subject to appeal. Both publications have suspended publication. In the case of Tous, there has been a conviction but, as of the date of the Special Representative's visit, no sentencing. In the case of Gardoon, there has been a conviction and the publisher/editor has been sentenced to 35 lashes and 6 months in jail. The charges were publication of lies, contempt and "propagation of wicked deeds".
During his call on Vice-Minister Ashari of the Ministry of Islamic Guidance and Culture, the Special Representative inquired about the case of the publisher/editor of Gardoon, Mr. Abbas Maroufi. Earlier in the conversation Mr. Ashari had said that "we regard it as our function to protect the rights of the press. Today there is a great freedom of the press in the Islamic Republic of Iran but if a person feels insulted he can bring the publisher/editor before a jury in the Press Tribunal. This jury is the personification of the culture of the society".
Mr. Ashari said that in the case of Gardoon there had been many complaints and that the jury had found it responsible for the published material. Mr. Ashari was a member of the jury. He said that he did not agree with the sentence and showed the Special Representative a newspaper article quoting him as saying that the sentence was not right and that "it is below the dignity of the press".
The Special Representative subsequently met with Mr. Maroufi. Gardoon has been published for about six years. It is an 80page literary journal appearing every 2 months with a circulation claimed to be about 20,000. The audience consists mainly of intellectuals. It receives no assistance from the Government and, in particular, no allocation of subsidized printing paper. However, it faces no direct censorship.
Gardoon has had runins with the authorities before. In 1992 a cover illustration of the August edition was criticized as being offensive and in October the magazine was banned by order of the Revolutionary Court. Mr.Maroufi was charged with a variety of offences, of which he was subsequently found not guilty in a oneday trial in December the same year. Two years later, Gardoon carried an article in which the sentence appeared, "the task of intellectuals is not only to oppose ... but also to promote critical thought". A group of people, including other journalists, complained. Mr. Maroufi was questioned but the matter quietened down. Recently there had been new complaints by 11 persons representing themselves, falsely in Mr.Maroufi's view, as the people of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Mr. Maroufi complained about the jury process, both its composition (including judges and senior officials such as Vice-Minister Ashari) and the fact that in his case its membership had changed three times since his latest troubles had begun. Mr. Maroufi pointed out that the Constitution allows for criticism. He always has his articles reviewed by two lawyers before publication. He believes he has done nothing wrong but is the victim of the current "mood" (javv). Nine of his own books have been held up in the Ministry awaiting approval for publication.
Mr. Maroufi said he had been in the publishing/editing business for 20years. "All my existence has been put into the creation of a literary journal ... My objective is to encourage writers of this country".
The Special Representative understands the Press Tribunal to be unusual in its use of a jury. Some senior officials described the jury feature as "a privilege", that is to say, that the guilt or innocence would be determined by persons other than a judge. The Special Representative does not have an understanding of the dynamics of the process and, in particular, it is far from clear whether what might be called legal standards as to guilt or innocence are applied by the jury. The Special Representative considers that punishing the press in such circumstances requires a balancing of the interests of the complainants on the one hand and the interests of the community in upholding the right to publish criticism on the other. The Special Representative sees no role for either imprisonment or corporal punishment in such circumstances.
During his visit to the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Special Representative requested information on the situation of the following prisoners condemned to death, including in particular the accused's right of appeal:
On 28 February 1996, the Human Rights Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs provided a response, which is set out in annex VII. The Special Representative believes the progress of these cases should be monitored.
Milton Meier. The Special Representative also requested information on the situation of a foreigner, Mr. Milton Meier, a person who has reportedly already completed his prison term and yet had again been detained.
The Special Representative visited Tehran's Evin prison on 13 February 1996. He was received by Mr. A. Lajevardi, the Director of the Prisons Organization of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Mr. Lajevardi handed the Special Representative a long document in English entitled "The by-laws and regulation of the security and educational procedures of the prisons organization of the Islamic Republic of Iran". He stated that the main objectives of the prison system was to reform and educate the inmates, giving the prisoners the possibility to study different subjects and to work in several workshops; rehabilitation; improving the personality of inmates; and improving literary skills.
According to the Director of the Prisons Organization, after the first 24hours, detainees must be turned over to his Organization. Inmates have the right to receive visits from their relatives and lawyers. If the prisoner has a satisfactory record, he or she may apply for private visits of his or her spouse. All the prisoners have the right to leave the prison for periods from a minimum of three days in six months to three days in one month. Every morning there is a two-hour sports period in which the prisoners can participate on a voluntary basis. Prison work is also voluntary and remunerated.
The Special Representative inquired about the use of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Offenders. The Director did not seem to be aware of the document but later it was explained that the Prosecutor's Office had organized several courses and seminars on the application of the Standard Minimum Rules. It was added that "regrettably", it was the staff of the Prosecutor's Office and not the staff of the Prisons Organization who participated in periodic meetings organized by the UnitedNations.
Mr. Lajevardi stated that the prison population was largely literate as a result of the education programmes. Medical services were available; the inmates were regularly vaccinated.
The main problem the Prisons Organization faced was the age of the buildings of some prisons. Mr. Lajevardi stated that that would be solved during the implementation of the second reconstruction plan of the country. Lastly, he made reference to an experimental project in Mashhad, according to which prisoners were not separated on the basis of whether there was a conviction or according to the nature of the offences committed, but on the basis of their personality traits.
As of January 1995, the Prisons Organization was responsible for 98,000 inmates across the country.
In response to several questions by the Special Representative, Mr.Lajevardi further stated that, in large prisons, the prisoners in pretrial detention were separated from those already convicted, although they could participate together in study, work and sports activities. From 11 to 12percent of the prison's population were recidivists. Indeterminate sentencing was not used in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Re-education programmes and religious instruction had a very positive effect, particularly on habitual sexual offenders.
After his meeting with Mr. Lajevardi, the Special Representative visited various workshops, including one for carpet designing and another for weaving. At the carpet-designing workshop, three women were working, one of them accompanied by her two-year old baby. At the weaving area, around 30 women were working in conditions of cleanliness but of some overcrowding and insufficient ventilation. In response to a question, the Special Representative was told that most women prisoners were there for drug offences.
The Special Representative requested the prison authorities to arrange for private meetings with the following prisoners:
The Special Representative was able to hold private meetings, without the presence of prison officers, with Kayvan Khalajabadi, Bihnam Mithaqi and AhmedBakhtari. He was also able to meet with Abbas Amir-Entezam who had been released to a security house (see para. 101 below). The Special Representative also met with Mohammad Reza Jafari, a prisoner who was obviously not Reza Jafari, the Christian Protestant pastor. The prison authorities said they could not identify Reza Jafari and Bahram Jafari-Dinani, and asked the Special Representative to provide further details for identification, such as their father's names, place and date of birth, identity card numbers, former addresses, etc. The Iranian authorities were unable to arrange for a meeting with Mr. Zendehdel although the Special Representative could observe Mr. Zendehdel at a distance in a court room (see paras. 29 (c) and 33 above).
All the prisoners interviewed appeared to be in satisfactory health, both physical and psychological. However, one was suffering from serious dental problems. All of them appeared in gray-green uniforms in good condition. They said that the use of the uniform was mandatory only to go before the courts.
The prisoners stated that the situation in Evin and the treatment of prisoners had improved somewhat over the past two years. Food was in general terms good, although insufficient in protein and calories. The prisoners could buy additional food. Medical care was, in general terms, also adequate. The prison had a central library and the relatives could provide the prisoners with books, although they must be approved by prison authorities and were restricted in the range of subjects. They also stated that they could have family visits once a week, which took place through a glass partition with telephone sets.
Outside Evin prison, the Special Representative was able to hold a private meeting with Abbas Amir-Entezam, who the Iranian authorities said was now released. In fact, he was on a three-day leave from a security house. In that facility he has a room of 3 metres by 3 metres and his own radio set. He has the right to buy his own food.
Mr. Amir-Entezam complained that, during his trial, his request for a jury and for a defence lawyer were rejected by the court. After his trial, he spent 550 days in solitary confinement in Evin prison. Later, he spent 160days in an individual cell measuring 1.2 by 1.2 metres. During the following two and a half years, he saw his wife three times a year. He had the right to take a shower lasting one minute and eleven seconds every day. At that time, food in Evin prison was very bad. He suffered three threats of immediate execution, the application of drugs and vomitives and had to have surgery, at his expense, eleven times in hospital. During the first four years in Evin prison, he was not allowed to have pens, reading material or notebooks.
According to Mr. Amir-Entezam, 1,100 political prisoners had been executed in Evin prison during one night at the beginning of the fall of 1981, most of them members of left-wing groups. Since 1989, the situation in Evin prison had improved progressively. In 1994, he had been given the right to receive visits from his cousin every two weeks. However, he had to live together with murderers and thieves, who frequently mocked and harassed him.
Mr. Amir-Entezam is now requesting a new trial, with a jury, the assistance of a defence lawyer and the participation, as observers, of representatives of international organizations. The press had quoted JudgeRahbar Poor as saying that, if retried, Mr. Amir-Entezam would face the death penalty. Mr. Amir-Entezam said the press had refused to print his letter in response.
Some of the prisoners complained of reprisals for having met with the former Special Representative during his last visit to Tehran in December 1991. In particular, Mr. Amir-Entezam complained of having suffered physical abuse to the point of having lost the hearing in his left ear.
By two letters dated 7 February 1996, the Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations Office at Geneva provided the Special Representative with information on some prisoners whose names had been published in previous reports by the former Special Representative (see A/49/514, para. 79). The letters from the Permanent Representative are reproduced as annexes VIII and IX to the present report.
The Special Representative continues to receive reports concerning disappearances and deaths under suspicious circumstances. Two recent cases are mentioned below.
One very recent case brought to the attention of the Special Representative is that of a Sunni cleric, Molawi Ahamed Sayyad, aged 50, who disappeared at Bandar Abbas airport on 28 January 1996 and whose body was found in a suburb of that city on 2 February 1996. It is alleged that he was arrested by six Revolutionary Guards (Pasdaran) at the airport and that he was executed while in Pasdaran custody. In 1990, he had been arrested and imprisoned for five years in Bandar Abbas. Ahamed Sayyad is reportedly the fourth Sunni cleric to have disappeared under suspicious circumstances in the region since 1994. The Special Representative has requested information on this case from the Iranian authorities.
The disappearance of Mr. Ahmad Mir Allaee, a well-known writer and translator, was also reported. His body was later found in an alley in the city of Isfahan on 14 November 1995.
The Special Representative received information concerning allegedly politically motivated violence against Iranians outside the country. He was presented with statistics suggesting that such violence was continuing unabated. The Special Representative considers it appropriate to include reference to such allegations in his report even though the incidents in question occurred outside the Islamic Republic of Iran because, quite arguably, they are an extension of a conflict within the country that has directly affected the human rights of many Iranians. The Special Representative has been informed of what is described as the disappearance and apparent kidnapping of Ali Tavassoli, aged 45, in Baku on 27 September 1995. Mr. Tavassoli is described as a businessman who was formerly active in the Organization of Iranian People's Fedaian (Majority).
A second incident that was brought to the attention of the Special Representative were the deaths of Zahrah Rajabi (Mariam Javdan Jowkar) and Abdul Ali Moradi in Istanbul on 20 February 1996. Ms. Rajabi is described as a senior official of the National Council of Resistance of Iran and Mr. Moradi as a long-time sympathizer of the Iranian opposition. Ms. Rajabi is said to have entered Turkey on 27 January 1996 for humanitarian activities among Iranian refugees in that country. It is alleged that the two were assassinated by agents of the Government of the Islamic Republic. In response to a request for information from the Iranian authorities, the Special Representative was advised, by letter dated 11 March 1996, that the allegations with regard to responsibility for the deaths were denied. The response from the Human Rights Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is set out in AnnexVI.
The Special Representative also received information subsequent to his visit to the Islamic Republic of Iran that members of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (Revolutionary Leadership) had been killed by members of the Iranian Pasdaran in Iraqi territory:
The Special Representative deplores this continuing violence and urges all those in positions of influence to work for its cessation.
Elections for the Fifth Majlis were held on 8 March 1996; from press comments, it is evident that a lively election campaign was under way for some months before that date. While political parties do not exist as such in the Islamic Republic of Iran, there are a number of groups or factions sometimes called "tendencies", all of which appear to be fairly fluid in their membership. Few seem to have a clear statement of objectives in the sense of a political platform. Candidates haveto be approved in a multistage process presided over by the Council of Guardians. On 18 February 1996, it was announced that, after the first stage, 2,872candidates had been declared eligible from among 5,359applicants. Later it was reported in the press that 2,946candidates had finally been approved, of whom 179 were women and 18 were from recognized religious minorities. There was criticism in the media over 40percent of the applicants being turned down as candidates. More generally, there were letters in the press quite critical of the election process and of the role of the Council of Guardians. One of the major issues appeared to be the basis for approval of the candidates and in particular whether it was necessary, indeed appropriate, for them to have to commit themselves to "Velayate Faqih" (absolute rule of the "jurisconsult", i.e."one learned in the principles and ordinances of the law"). The Secretary of the Council of Guardians was quoted in the press on 25 January 1996 as saying that "practical commitment to Velayate Faqih is a requirement for qualification for participation in the elections". The same source was quoted as saying on 23 February 1996 that one of the registered candidates had recently returned home after living abroad for 10years and that such people were "necessarily not admissible". According to the press, other candidates were barred for earlier belonging to outlawed opposition groups, for being "semiilliterate" or being drug addicts.
Fifteen persons associated with the Freedom Movement, an unregistered but tolerated opposition group, had applied to be candidates. Four were approved but, according to press reports, they withdrew when they were denied a means to make their views known publicly.
Several human rights organizations have recently been established in the country:
Mr.Khorasani stated that the work of the Committee had been difficult during the first months of its existence, owing to misunderstanding in some sectors of Iranian society and the Iranian press about the role of the Committee as well as the basic principles of human rights. Those sectors considered human rights simply as a political tool in the hands of the great Powers; they ignored the objective of human rights law, which was to promote and defend the dignity of the human being. During a general debate in the Majlis, a parliamentarian had addressed the following words to the members of the Human Rights Committee: "You are speaking on behalf of the enemies of this country". He believed it necessary to insist on the creation of a human rights culture and on the idea that human rights were not contrary to Islam.
The Special Representative believes these new organizations have considerable potential for improving the human rights situation and he looksforward to monitoring their progress.
According to a recent UNHCR publication, the Islamic Republic of Iran isthe country with the largest refugee population in the world. As of 1 January 1995, it was hosting 1,623,300 Afghan refugees and 613,000 Iraqi refugees, i.e.a total of 2,236,400refugees. During 1994, 226,700 Afghan refugees and 2,300 Iraqi refugees decided to return to their country (UNHCR,The State of the World's Refugees 1995 - In Search of Solutions, Oxford University Press, NewYork, 1995, pp.249, 251252).
The Special Representative was informed, during his meetings with officials from UNHCR in Geneva and Tehran, that the majority of Afghan refugees are scattered in a number of eastern and central provinces, including the Greater Tehran Region. Only a minority lives in camps, which are mainly located on the border with Pakistan and are provided with safe drinking water, electricity and additional food.
During 1995, the repatriation process has slowed down, owing to the intensification of the civil war in Afghanistan. Some 91,000 Afghan refugees were repatriated during 1995 with the assistance of theUNHCR.
Iraqi refugees in the Islamic Republic of Iran are mostly Kurds from the north of Iraq and Arab Shi'ites from the southern marsh area. About 63,000 live in refugee camps and the remainder are scattered in towns and villages mainly located in the western and central provinces of the country. In the fall of 1995, the repatriation operation had to be suspended owing to incidents in Iraq. It was subsequently resumed, but at a much reduced level.
In general terms, both the Afghan and the Iraqi refugees have access to medical services, medicines and schools. However, the Special Representative was told that the Government of the Islamic Republic has begun to have some financial problems subsidizing such services, particularly in the health sector. This has led UNHCR to develop a targeted medical network to respond to the most acute needs of the refugees.
UNHCR has an active presence in the Islamic Republic of Iran with a mainoffice in Tehran and regional offices in Ahvaz, Kermanshah, Mashhad and Zahedan. It carries out several programmes of assistance, documentation and protection.
The Special Representative feels it would be presumptuous of him to draw definitive conclusions after such a short period on the job. At this stage, conclusions are inevitably in the form of observations, questions and the identification of areas to be examined in more detail.
The Islamic Republic of Iran is a dynamic society. There is clearly a range of opinions on most issues facing the society, and in many areas there is evidently active and fairly open debate. Arguably, this could be a prelude for significant change. In the meantime however, there remain, in the view of the Special Representative, many areas of significant concern from a human rights perspective. A number of these are identified in the present report.
More generally, however, the term "human rights" does not yet seem to bewidely accepted in the country as a system of values and procedures to preserve the dignity of the individual. A sense of the universality of that dignity, of its importance beyond politics, seems at best rudimentary.
The Special Representative believes it is his mandate to chronicle not only acts that he considers to be breaches of human rights, but also trends-both positive and negative - and importantly, to engage the Government of the Islamic Republic in a dialogue, perhaps implicit, on the subject of change. The Special Representative believes it to be of the utmost importance to encourage the Government to lead the way towards a more sympathetic environment for the propagation of a culture of human rights in the IslamicRepublic of Iran.
The Special Representative acknowledges the cooperation of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the first six months of his mandate. He looks forward to the continuation of this spirit.
The Islamic Republic of Iran is a party to the following international human rights instruments. Their dates of entry into force for the Islamic Republic of Iran are shown:- International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 23 March 1976;- International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 3 January 1976;- International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, 4 January 1969;- International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid, 17 May 1985;- International Convention against Apartheid in Sports, 3 April 1988;- Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, 12 November 1956;- Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade, and Institutions and Practices Similar to Slavery, 30 December 1959;- Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, 26 October 1976;- Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees, 28 July 1976;- Convention on the Rights of the Child, 12 August 1994.
The Islamic Republic of Iran has signed but not yet ratified the following international human rights instruments:- Slavery Convention of 1926;- Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of theExploitation of the Prostitution of Others, 16 July 1953.
Meeting with H.E.Mr.Rowhani, Deputy Speaker of the Islamic Consultative Assembly (Majlis) and Chief Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council.
Meeting with Mr.MaasoumehEbtekar, Chief Editor of FarzanehQuarterly.
Meeting with H.E.Mr.M.JavadZarif, Deputy Foreign Minister for Legal and International Affairs.
Meeting with Mr.Badamchian, Leading Member of Article 10 Commission on Political Parties.Sunday, 11 February 1996 Academic round table on Islamic andinternational approaches to human rights.Participants: AyatollahTaskhiri; Mr.Dinani (Professor, University of Tehran); Mr.HosseinMehrpoor; Mr.MohagheghDamad (Professor, University of Tehran); and AyatollahJafari (Professor, Islamic Philosophy).Monday, 12 February 1996 Meeting with Hojatoleslam val Moslemin RahbarPoor, Head of the Islamic Revolutionary Courts of Tehran Province and his deputy for drug matters.
Meeting with H.E.Mr.Ashari, Deputy Minister of Islamic Culture and Guidance.
Meeting with Mr.EftekharJahromi, President of the Independent Bar Association.
Meeting with H.E.Mr.Fallahian, Minister of Intelligence.Tuesday, 13 February 1996 Meeting with Mr.A.Lajevardi, Head of thePrisons Organization.Visit to Evin Prison.
Meeting with H.E.Mr.A.Velayati, Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Meeting with Hojatoleslam val Moslemin FerdosiPoor, Head of the Court of Administrative Justice.
Meeting with Mrs.Habibi, Adviser to H.E.PresidentRafsanjani.Wednesday, 14 February 1996 Meeting with Hojatoleslam val Moslemin Razini, Head of the Courts of Justice of Tehran Province.
Meeting with H.E.Hojatoleslam val Moslemin Esmail Shushtari, Minister of Justice.
Meeting with Mr.S.RajaieKhorasani, Member of Parliament and a leading member of the Islamic Human Rights Commission.
Meeting with Mrs.F.Hashemi, Head of the Women's Solidarity Council.Thursday, 15 February 1996 Second meeting with Hoyatoleslam val Moslemin RahbarPoor.
Meeting with AyatollahYazdi, Head of the Judiciary.
Final meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with Mr.M.JavadZarif and members of the Human Rights Department.
Friday, 16 February 1996 Departure for Geneva.
Saturday, 10 February 1996 Mr.DarioushFarouhar, former Labour Minister inthe Provisional Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Sunday, 11 February 1996 Confidential meetings.
Monday, 12 February 1996 Mr.EbrahimYazdi, former Minister for Foreign Affairs in the Provisional Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Meeting with leading members of the Baha'i Community.
Meeting with Mr.PierreBertrand, UNHCR Chief of Mission.Confidential meetings.1/Tuesday, 13 February 1996 Confidential meetings.1/Wednesday, 14 February 1996 Meeting with Mr.AbbasMaroufi, EditorinChief of Gardoon magazine.
Confidential meetings.1/Thursday, 15 February 1996 Meeting with Mr.AbdolkarimSoroush.
Meeting with Mr.AbbasAmirEntezam.Interviews with the Iranian and international press.
1. Further inquiry into the pretrial phase of legal proceedings, particularly the treatment of prisoners, the length of time a prisoner can be held before being charged, the right to a lawyer and, generally the rights of detainees at this pretrial stage.
2. Further inquiry concerning the application of recent or recently revised or promulgated statutes such as the Law establishing the general and revolutionary courts and the Penal Code.
3. Number, status and competence of special courts such as the High Tribunal for Judicial Discipline, the Clerics Court and the Military Court. The rights of the accused, access of the media to the courts, publication of the judgements and settlement of conflicts of jurisdiction would also be examined.
4. Examination of such concepts as the "prestige of the clergy", "insulting the leaders" and "economic sabotage or terrorism".
5. Use of the death penalty.
6. Functioning of the Independent Bar Association.
7. Legal status and treatment of children, especially in the courts.
1. A person accused of murder was executed in February 1995 in the public section of Tehran's Ghasr prison and another five persons, accused of smuggling drugs, were hanged in Hamadan. In March 1995, Javad Taheri, EsmaeelMohammadi and Javad Bahran-Pour, found guilty of armed robbery, causing chaos and threatening the security of the people, were hanged in public at Mohammad-Yar, in Naqadeh City.
2. In April 1995, according to the ruling of a revolutionary court, an armed robber was publicly hanged in Kovar. Also in April, Parvis Poyamanesh and Mehrdad Najafi, found guilty of murder, were hanged in Tehran's Ghasr prison and Ismail Mozdoori, also accused of murder, was executed in Neka at the scene of the crime, in the presence of judiciary and security officers. In May 1995, 3 persons were hanged in public in a stadium of Ghaemchahr on charges of murder; a person was executed in the city of Susangerd for murdering 2 people; 11 persons accused of drug-trafficking were hanged in Kerman's penitentiary and Khodanazar Keshavars and Dadkhoda Tajick, 2 persons accused of murder, were executed in the courtyard of Adel-Abad prison in the city of Shiraz.
3. On 13 June 1995, Ali-Reza Gol-Afrouz, aged 43, sentenced to death on charges of murder, adultery and drinking alcohol, was hanged in public in Chirvan, after receiving 80 lashes. On 16 June, Ahmad Asghari, aged 26, and Mirza Ali Mirzaï, aged 28, were publicly hanged in Varzeh, after being found guilty of abduction and rape. Another four people, accused of drugtrafficking and acts contrary to chastity, were hanged on 27 June in the courtyard of a prison in the city of Qom.
4. On 21 July 1995, Lieutenant Colonel Kazem Farzaneh, former Director of the Department against drug-trafficking in the Province of Khorrassan, was hanged in Mashhad. He was found guilty by the Revolutionary Court of that city of drug-trafficking and possession of 123 kilograms of opium, heroin and morphine, as well as receiving bribes. In late September 1995, six members of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan were executed by firing squad in the city of Orumiyeh. Rashid Abubakri, a Kurdish villager member of the party, was hanged on 21 September in a prison in Orumiyeh.
5. Hamzeh Azizi, Vahid-Reza Masrour and Abdol-Reza Masrour were hanged in public on 16 October 1995 at three different locations in the city of Shiraz. They were found guilty by a revolutionary court of corruption on Earth and drug-trafficking. On 13 November, Mehdi Barazandeh, an Iranian mystic member of the Dervish sect, was stoned to death in the city of Hamadan, after being found guilty of adultery and sodomy. On 22 November, Fazel Khodadad, a businessman convicted of bank embezzlement, was hanged in Evin prison in Tehran.
1. Referring to the accusations concerning Ms. Zeinab Miri, Ms.Sedigheh Habibi and Mrs. Nassrin Qa'Emi, I would like to inform you that the question was forwarded to the bodies concerned for proper investigation. According to the information received from the above mentioned sources, including the Ministry of Interior and the Tehran Justice Department, the arrest of those persons is not confirmed.
2. The baseless and fabricated accusations in regard to the death of two Iranians whose names have been given, Ms. Zahrah Rajabi and Mr. A. Moradi; and the alleged relation thereof with the Islamic Republic of Iran, are obviously spiteful and invalid. It is evident that the security of foreigners in the territory of a given country is the responsibility of the State in which they reside.
3. Moreover, it should be mentioned that the so-called MKO (a violent small terrorist group) has in the past repeatedly levelled similar accusations against Iran in the hope of ascribing their policy of murdering their disenchanted members to others.(Signed): Hossein Sh. ZEINEDDIN
I would like to provide you with the following information about the clandestine group of Seyyed Morteza Shirazi:
Charges against Seyyed Morteza Shirazi:
a. Collaborating in issuing and using forged passports;
b. Collaborating in issuing and using forged identity cards;
c. Collaborating in the issuing and use of forged educational documents;
d. Collaborating in the illegal transfer of individuals to foreign countries;
e. Printing books without relevant authorization;
Contrary to the allegations of ill-treatment of the detainees, they were not in any way mistreated and even their houses were searched by female officers, in the presence of the accused persons and some of their family members. The list of articles collected was signed by the head of the family and the accused. The procedure for searching some of the houses was videotaped. At the first opportunity in the 24 hours following their arrest, the accused made contact with their families and informed them of their situation. These communications have been continued, especially on religious feasts, when the accused have spoken with their spouses and children as well as their relatives. They have also had several face-to-face meetings. They are provided with medicine, medical care, food and health services. Lastly, according to article 35 of the Constitution, they are entitled to choose a lawyer and their right is fully respected.(Signed): Hossein Sh. ZEINEDDIN
LETTER DATED 7 FEBRUARY 1996 FROM THE PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF IRAN TO THE UNITED NATIONS OFFICE AT GENEVA ADDRESSED TO THE SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE
I wish to bring to your attention the following findings, which have been received from Tehran:
I have the pleasure to provide you with the result of investigations carried out by the relevant judicial authorities on the following cases:
The Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) is a national institution with four substantive organs, which are as follows:
Some of the Articles of Association read:Article 1. According to principle 156 and the first line of principle 158 of the Constitution, IHRC would be formed under the supervision of the Chief of the Judiciary.
Article 2. The Commission would operate exclusively in the field of Islamic human rights.
Article 3. From the date of establishment, the Council would have legal responsibility and its chief would be the legal representative of the Commission.Article 4. The headquarters of the Commission would be located in Tehran and its branches can be established in any part of the country or the world.Objectives of IHRCThe objectives of IHRC are as follows:
HUMAN RIGHTS DEPARTMENT OF THE MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has recently established a Human Rights Department. The Director of this Department is assisted by two deputies and a number of clerks. It reports to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. The functions of the department are: