Freedom from Torture - Freedom from Torture welcomes UN decision to maintain independent expert on Iran

Freedom from Torture welcomes UN decision to maintain independent expert on Iran

Freedom from Torture welcomes today’s decision (24 March 2017) by the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council (the Council) to extend for a further year the mandate of the independent expert charged with scrutinising the human rights situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran.  

Asma Jahangir, who was appointed as UN Special Rapporteur on Iran by the Council in September 2016 taking over from Dr Ahmed Shaheed, is mandated to monitor and investigate human rights violations and to report to the Council and the General Assembly on her findings and recommendations.  

In her report to the Council, which was presented on 13 March 2017, Ms Jahangir highlighted a lack of improvement in the human rights situation in Iran. Further, Ms Jahangir stated that, since her appointment, she has received “numerous reports” of torture and ill-treatment, used as punishment and to coerce confessions.

Regrettably, during the dialogue with Ms Jahangir about her report, member states paid scant attention to torture in Iran, even though Ms Jahangir described it as “endemic”.

Since its establishment in 1985, Freedom from Torture has received referrals for more than 5000 Iranians for clinical services.  In 2016, Freedom from Torture received 140 referrals for Iranians, making Iran the second top country of origin for those referred to the organisation. Over the next year we will use the information we gather from survivors as well as the documented evidence of torture we collect to inform and influence Ms Jahangir’s work.

Freedom from Torture published a study in 2013 of Iranian torture documented by clinicians through its Medico-Legal Report service. The study reported a wide range of physical, psychological and environmental torture methods against many people – and their family members – who had been involved in very low level grassroots political activism.

The continuation of an independent expert to monitor and report on human rights violations, including torture and ill-treatment, in Iran is vital to ensuring on-going scrutiny by the UN and its member states. This is particularly important at this time when Iran is seeking to re-establish diplomatic and economic relations with a number of countries including the UK and the members of the EU.  Freedom from Torture is disappointed that the Iranian Government has failed to respond positively to numerous requests by human rights experts of the Council to visit the country, and that the government failed to accept any of the 20 recommendations regarding torture and ill-treatment submitted during the Universal Periodic Review cycle in 2014.

Freedom from Torture calls on the Iranian Government to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur on Iran by extending an invitation to her to visit and granting her unimpeded access to the country. We also call on the Iranian Government to ratify the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and its Optional Protocol as a matter of priority.

Background

The UN Human Rights Council is a body comprising 47 member states which meets in Geneva. It is responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights and for addressing human rights violations, both country and thematic.  The Council appoints independent experts, collectively known as “Special Procedures”, to scrutinise country situations or issues of concern. As at September 2016, the Council had established experts to consider 14 country situations, including Iran. The experts seek to fulfil their mandates by undertaking country visits and sending urgent and routine communications to the relevant state concerning allegations of human rights violations. They provide an annual report to the Council and are usually mandated to provide an interim report to the UN General Assembly.  Ms Jahangir is the fifth mandate-holder on the situation of human rights in Iran. The first UN expert on Iran was appointed by the former Commission on Human Rights in 1984.

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