UN Rights Rapporteur Says Death Sentences Restrict Dissent
Iran should conduct an impartial and transparent inquiry into the suppression of protests in November 2019 and January 2020, Javaid Rehman, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran, has said in his annual report, published on Tuesday October 27.
Rehman found that Iran’s authorities had not, nearly a year on, conducted an investigation consistent with international standards, despite evidence of excessive and lethal force by security forces. He reiterated that any violators of protesters’ right to dissent should be brought to justice.
Lethal force, Rehman wrote, was responsible for the deaths of over 300 people, including women and children. In his third report to the UN General Assembly since his appointment as Special Rapporteur in September 2018, Rehman said that he was shocked by the level of violence.
The new report also highlights the Special Rapporteur’s concern at death sentences passed on protesters, as well as at the harassment and detention of victims’ families for speaking out. He cited the cases of Navid Afkari, a 27-year-old wrestler executed on September 12, and imprisoned human-rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh.
“The Government and judiciary appear to be implementing death sentences against protesters to prevent peaceful dissent and restrict civic space,” Rehman wrote. “The recent arbitrary execution of Navid Afkari for his participation in August 2018 protests is emblematic of this concern.”
Rehman expressed concern over the poor health of Sotoudeh, who has not been allowed to go on furlough despite the pandemic. The UN rapporteur said he was alarmed that the Iranian authorities had not extended the furlough to most human-rights lawyers, journalists, conservationists and jailed dual or foreign nationals.
While reiterating concerns about the high rate of executions, including of child offenders, as well as discrimination on the basis of gender, religion and ethnicity, Rehman echoed the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and High Commissioner Michele Bachelet in calling for sanctions against countries like Iran to be eased during the Covid-19 pandemic. “The population of Iran needs unfettered access to vital medication, medical equipment and other hygiene products now,” he wrote.
Washington has argued that sanctions do not apply to humanitarian trade. But the Iranian authorities and international bodies have said that US financial restrictions have led to payment problems and produced a shortage of medicine and medical equipment in sanctioned countries.