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Special Rapporteur on Iran: Sanctions and the Government’s “Inadequate and Opaque” Response Have Exacerbated COVID-19’s Impact in Iran

AFTERNOON
9 March 2021

Human Rights Council Concludes Dialogue with Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict

The Human Rights Council this afternoon held an interactive dialogue with Javaid Rehman, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, who said that

the COVID-19 pandemic had added to a myriad of economic, political and social challenges in Iran. He was concerned that sanctions had in part hindered the Government's efforts to counter the pandemic, echoing calls to ease the sanctions. The Government's "inadequate and opaque" response to the pandemic had exacerbated its impact, resulting in over 60,000 deaths as of 1 March 2021.

Mr. Rehman thanked the Government of Iran for its engagement and respectfully requested access to Iran. He said the bleak reality of the human rights situation in Iran was characterized by the most egregious violations and continued impunity. It was beyond belief that the Government had still not conducted a proper investigation nor held anyone accountable for the lethal force used against protestors, which had caused at least 304 deaths 18 months ago.

Iran, speaking as a country concerned, said the establishment of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur was not justified and contradicted the principle of universality - this was forced on the Council by a few political actors. Moreover, it was based on disinformation and false narratives that distorted, among others, the COVID-19 response by the Government. The maintenance of unprecedented unilateral sanctions by the current Government of the United States, especially in light of the pandemic, was in defiance of basic humanity - they were brutal and unlawful. Iran stood resolute in the support of the cause of human rights.

In the ensuing discussion, speakers expressed deep concern over the continued use of the death penalty and the practice of secret executions, including of children. The lack of cooperation by the Government of Iran with the mandate, as well as the scant signs of progress in the area of human rights were alarming. Speakers expressed concern about the fact that no credible investigation into the use of force against protesters in November 2019 had been launched. Other speakers regretted that this mandate continued to exist despite the fact that Iran disagreed with its establishment. They supported the calls to end this counter-productive mandate, urging States to engage instead in a genuine cooperative dialogue with Iran. Unilateral sanctions sought to undermine the morale of the entire people of Iran, violating their rights.

Speaking were the European Union, Denmark on behalf of a group of countries, Canada, Germany, North Macedonia, Israel, France, Russian Federation, Slovenia, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, Australia, Netherlands, Venezuela, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Belgium, United States, Albania, Belarus, China, Syria, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Ireland, Sri Lanka, Cuba, Czech Republic, Nicaragua and Burundi.

Also taking the floor were the following civil society organizations: Ensemble contre la Peine de Mort, Baha'i International Community, International Federation of Journalists, International Bar Association, International Humanist and Ethical Union, International PEN, British Humanist Association, Right Livelihood Award Foundation, Article 19 - International Centre Against Censorship, and Iran Human Rights Documentation Centre.

At the beginning of the meeting, the Human Rights Council concluded its interactive dialogue with Virginia Gamba, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.

Speakers extended their appreciation to the Special Representative for her continued engagement, noting that children residing in areas of armed conflict were left furthest behind. Peace settlements must cater to children's needs, and educational programmes were necessary to reintegrate child soldiers. Drawing attention to the situation of children living under occupation or in armed conflict, speakers urged the Special Representative to focus on prevention, including the prevention of the recruitment of children. Noting that the COVID-19 pandemic had exacerbated challenges faced by children affected by armed conflict, speakers echoed the Special Representative's recommendation for all parties to conflict to endorse the appeal of the United Nations Secretary-General for a global ceasefire and to put an immediate and effective halt to hostilities.

In her concluding remarks, Ms. Gamba noted that in order to support the work of her office, States could support the promotion of the ratification of the Paris Principles, ensure that sustained attention was given to violations against children within United Nations investigations mechanisms, advocate for the recruitment of staff with child specific expertise, and allocate funds for child-sensitive investigations and processes. Networks of child protection monitors had been reinforced and her office had provided specific training in a variety of countries.

Speaking were Armenia, Iran, Namibia, Malta, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Egypt, Cameroon, Spain, Malaysia, China, Azerbaijan, Syria, Italy, Poland, Luxembourg, Fiji, United Kingdom, Sudan, Nigeria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Ireland, Panama, Georgia, Ukraine, Algeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sri Lanka, Chad, Colombia, Niger, Tunisia and the State of Palestine.

The following civil society organizations also took the floor: National Human Rights Council of Morocco, Save the Children International, Plan International, Inc., The Palestinian Return Centre Ltd, Defence for Children International, Justiça Global, Institute for NGO Research, Beijing Children's Legal Aid and Research Centre, Promotion du Développement Economique et Social - PDES, Il Cenacolo, and Next Century Foundation.

Speaking in right of reply at the end of the meeting were China, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Armenia, Chile, Algeria, Syria, Azerbaijan and Iran.

The webcast of the Human Rights Council meetings can be found here. All meeting summaries can be found here. Documents and reports related to the Human Rights Council's forty-sixth regular session can be found here.

The Council will next meet at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 10 March, to continue its general debate on the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development. It will then hold separate interactive dialogues with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and with the Independent International Fact-finding Mission on Venezuela.

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict

The interactive dialogue with Virginia Gamba, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, started in a previous meeting and a summary can be found here.

Interactive Dialogue

Speakers extended their appreciation to the Special Representative for her continued engagement, noting that children residing in areas of armed conflict were left furthest behind. Peace settlements must cater to children's needs, and educational programmes were necessary to reintegrate child soldiers. Drawing attention to the situation of children living under occupation or in armed conflict, speakers urged the Special Representative to focus on prevention, including the prevention of the recruitment of children. Noting that the COVID-19 pandemic had exacerbated challenges faced by children affected by armed conflict, speakers echoed the Special Representative's recommendation for all parties to conflict to endorse the appeal of the United Nations Secretary-General for a global ceasefire and to put an immediate and effective halt to hostilities. States emerging from conflict should include children in transitional justice processes, particularly in reconciliation and accountability processes which facilitated their reintegration into society.

Could the Special Representative provide an update on the United Nations' internal review of the approach for listing, and delisting parties to conflict? Speakers encouraged her to analyse the impact on children of unexploded ordnance, mines and other dangerous remnants of war material. It was of utmost importance to restore the credibility of the list of perpetrators in the Secretary-General's Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict, which should be grounded in evidence collected and verified by the United Nations' Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism, rather than political considerations. The lack of data on girls' association with armed actors had contributed to a misrepresentation of the matter; the Special Representative should commit to substantive efforts to ensure that country teams were adequately capacitated and resourced on the gender dimensions of children in armed conflicts. Speakers drew attention to the persistence and the deepening of the issue of the use of lethal violence by the police against Afro-descendant children.

Concluding Remarks

VIRGINIA GAMBA, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, noted that in order to support the work of her office, States could support the promotion of the ratification of the Paris Principles, ensure that sustained attention was given to violations against children within United Nations investigations mechanisms, advocate for the recruitment of staff with child specific expertise, and allocate funds for child-sensitive investigations and processes. Networks of child protection monitors had been reinforced and her office had provided specific training in a variety of countries. The impact of COVID-19 on the work of her office had been significant. Supporting the children and armed conflict mandate was essential. Regarding regional support, the development of initiatives must be encouraged, sustaining gains of national action plans beyond those plans. Transitional justice processes should investigate crimes against children, strengthen government institutions to protect children's rights, and in principle children should not be held criminally responsible under international jurisdiction.

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran

Report

The Council has before it the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran A/HRC/46/50 on an overview of current human rights concerns in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Presentation of Report

JAVAID REHMAN, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, thanked the Government for its engagement, respectfully requested access to Iran, and noted that the COVID-19 pandemic had added to a myriad of economic, political and social challenges. Mr. Rehman expressed concern that sanctions had in part hindered the Iranian Government's efforts to counter the pandemic, echoing calls to ease the sanctions. The Government's inadequate and opaque response to the pandemic had exacerbated its impact, resulting in over 60,000 deaths as of 1 March 2021. While commending the prison furlough scheme, Mr. Rehman was highly concerned that arbitrarily detained individuals remained incarcerated. The bleak reality of the human rights situation in Iran was characterized by the most egregious violations and continued impunity. It was beyond belief that the Government had still not conducted a proper investigation nor held anyone accountable for the lethal force used against protestors, which caused at least 304 deaths 18 months ago.

Iran's high death penalty rate continued to be troubling. In 2020, at least 267 executions took place, including at least four child offenders, with over 40 in 2021 as of 1 March. The continued arbitrary detention of human rights defenders and lawyers persisted, including a trend of applying new charges to prolong detention. Unacceptable restrictions on freedom of expression continued, including the imprisonment of journalists for critical reporting. The arbitrary detention of dual and foreign nationals was also deeply concerning. The Special Rapporteur was alarmed at the targeting of minorities, including through executions, enforced disappearances and arbitrary sentencing of individuals from the Baluch, Kurdish and Ahwazi Arab minorities. While some positive steps in education and citizenship rights of women and girls had been taken, egregious gender-based discrimination persisted in law, practice and societal attitudes. Violence against women was a serious concern. The Special Rapporteur asked the Government to take immediate action to end child marriages, expressing alarm at the continued harassment, arrest and imprisonment of Iranian women's rights advocates.

Statement by Country Concerned


Iran, speaking as a country concerned, took the opportunity to request the Council to observe a minute of silence in honour of female frontline workers and healthcare professionals who had lost their lives fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. Iran honoured its own nurses and healthcare professionals - they were valued in the country. In today's Iran, women formed 50 per cent of employees in the Ministry of Health. The age expectancy of women had increased from 56 in 1976 to 79 in 2019. Close to 50 per cent of higher education graduates were women. For more than 10 years, this debate had been a platform to launch attacks against Iran - a one-sided and accusatory discussion, weaponizing human rights to score political points. The establishment of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur was not justified and contradicted the principle of universality - this was forced on the Council by a few political actors. Moreover, it was based on disinformation and false narratives that distorted, among others, the COVID-19 response by the Government. The maintenance of unprecedented unilateral sanctions by the current Government of the United States, especially in light of the pandemic, was in defiance of basic humanity - they were brutal and unlawful. Iran stood resolute in the support of the cause of human rights.

Interactive Dialogue

Speakers expressed deep concern over the continued use of the death penalty and the practice of secret executions, including of children - this was a primary concern for many. The lack of cooperation by the Government of Iran with the mandate, as well as the scant signs of progress in the area of human rights, were alarming. Speakers expressed concern about the fact that no credible investigation into the use of force against protesters in November 2019 had been launched. The focus of the report on girls and women was welcomed, and it was shocking to read that the penal code in Iran retained the death penalty for girls as young as nine years old. Multiple speakers brought up the mistreatment of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex community and the importance of protecting these individuals. Other speakers emphasised the politicisation of this mandate - the Council's work must be based on mutual interaction and States must not interfere in Iran's internal matters. Iran was a country that maintained close cooperation with the human rights treaty bodies and the Universal Periodic Review mechanism. The Government of Iran was urged to release all those arbitrarily detained and to stop targeting and intimidating ethnic and religious minorities.

Interim Remarks

JAVAID REHMAN, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, emphasised that the mandate had conducted a professional, independent and impartial investigation of facts, fully in accordance with the code of conduct of the Special Procedures. Regarding the impact of sanctions on COVID-19, Mr. Rehman continued to be concerned that these sanctions remained in practise, calling for them to be eased. Notwithstanding, the Iranian Government must accept its responsibility to its population. As the report evidenced, there was continuing targeting of human rights defenders, labour rights activists, lawyers and journalists - they were operating in an increasingly shrinking space. This hindered change, but also resulted in silencing of the voices needed for development. Mr. Rehman noted that Iran had accepted a series of recommendations during the Universal Periodic Review and urged members to continue the dialogue with the country.

Interactive Dialogue

Speakers regretted that this mandate continued to exist despite the fact that Iran disagreed with its establishment. They supported the calls to end this counter-productive mandate, urging States to engage instead in a genuine cooperative dialogue with Iran. Unilateral sanctions sought to undermine the morale of the entire people of Iran, violating their rights. Speakers denounced the selfish attitude of some States against Iran with their use of sanctions. Limited progress towards gender equality was welcomed - but the Government of Iran had to do more as speakers urged it to commit to uphold the rights of women and girls. Speakers also welcomed Iran's engagement and increased responses to communications from Special Procedures. The number of crimes punishable by death in Iran was among the highest in the world - the death penalty was used as a tool of political repression against minority groups, including Kurdish and Balochi citizens. The Baháʼí community in the country had been persecuted systematically for four decades, it was time to end this persecution based purely on their faith. Iran now targeted journalists across borders, and there was an alarming escalation of death and rape threats and horrific online abuse of journalists. A culture of endemic impunity existed in Iran with regards to State violence, including against women, human rights defenders, political protesters and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex children.

Concluding Remarks

JAVAID REHMAN, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, welcomed that States shared his view on the absence of an independent investigation into the November 2019 protests and that there was no accountability for the serious human rights violations committed by State security forces. Iranian medical personnel were at the frontline of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, but they were not provided with adequate equipment and their salaries were delayed. The international community could support Iran by carrying out a consistent and thorough review of its laws and practices regarding women and girls, sharing their own experience, including with regards to integrating Sharia law.

Link: https://www.ungeneva.org/en/news-media/meeting-summary/2021/03/afternoon-special-rapporteur-iran-sanctions-and-governments

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For use of the information media; not an official record