As the 54th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council comes to a close, HRA reflects on a month of United Nations advocacy and why sustained international attention on the situation of human rights in Iran is imperative in light of the widespread, ongoing abuse and the disreputable denial by the State.
The 54th Session of the Human Rights Council commenced with a statement by Volker Türk, who acknowledged the passing of Zhina Mahsa Amini and expressed concern over the troubling human rights violations that have unfolded in the past year. This included the introduction of the new Hijab Bill, strict legal penalties, an increased use of the death penalty, and the continued repression at the hands of the morality police.
HRA’s Director of Global Advocacy and Accountability took part in a side event titled “A Year of the Woman, Life, Freedom Movement,” hosted by IHRDC. During this event, she explored the wide-ranging implications of Iran’s new Hijab and Chastity Bill, with particular emphasis on the grave concerns surrounding the expanded authority granted to the Basij forces throughout the country.
Simultaneously, during the 54th session, the Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) marked the one-year anniversary of Mahsa Amini’s passing by expressing concerns about the Iranian government’s intensified repression and reprisals against its citizens. Additionally, the FFM raised alarm regarding new laws, especially those severely curbing the rights of women and girls. Furthermore, HRA continued its engagement with the FFM and the UN Special Rapporteur on Iran, participating in meetings to support their mandates concerning Iran. Furthermore, HRA actively engaged in meetings with member states during this period continually briefing on emerging issue areas.
139th Session of the Human Rights Committee
In an effort to shed light on significant human rights abuses, HRA, in collaboration with its partners, submitted a formal written update to the Human Rights Committee in early October in preparation for its review of Iran. This update specifically addressed the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, media freedom and the safety of journalists, freedom of expression online, the right to privacy, the situation of human rights lawyers and defenders, and access to information. HRA also engaged in informal dialogues with committee experts regarding human rights in Iran, preparing for the interactive dialogue.
During the session, Thompson emphasized the ongoing human rights violations in Iran, particularly with regards to the right to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association. Furthermore, she informed the Committee about the unjust treatment of journalists, charged with national security offenses after trials lacking any semblance of due process, all for simply exercising their fundamental right to freedom of expression. Thompson stated, “Although repression against the freedom of information was already widespread, with journalists facing arrests, interrogations, imprisonments, surveillance, harassment, and threats, it has escalated since the outbreak of the ‘Woman, Life, Freedom’ protests triggered by the death in detention of Zhina Mahsa Amini in September 2022.”
*Zohreh Elahian, designated by the European Union for her involvement in serious human rights violations, intervenes as part of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s official delegation. She appears sitting next to the Chair of the Human Rights Committee. October 9, 2023.
During the same session, the Committee conducted a comprehensive review of the human rights situation in Iran, shedding light on grave violations, including instances of torture, the excessive use of force in response to recent protests, and the status of LGBTI rights. Regrettably, the delegation from the Islamic Republic chose not to provide substantive responses and even resorted to intimidation tactics when questioned about an individual listed on the EU sanctions list. See the Spreading Justice profile of Zohreh Elahian. Elahian’s position within the delegation, and travel to Switzerland as part of Iran’s delegation was questioned by Ms. Marcia Kran as part of the formal dialogue between the Committee and the delegation. Elahian’s travel was also condemned by the Chair of the Delegation for relation with Iran within the European Parliament, Cornelia Ernst.
Following the session, the Human Rights Committee made a poignant observation, stating, “Most of the substantive questions remain unanswered.” Despite persistent inquiries regarding LGBT rights, torture, and the excessive use of force in recent protests, the Committee received no satisfactory responses.
As the session closes HRA remains steadfast in its commitment to amplifying the voices of Iranians on the international stage. Sustained international dialogue and attention is crucial for Iran, as it ensures that the ongoing struggles of the Iranian people are not only heard but also acted upon by the global community. By maintaining consistent focus on Iran, the international community can play a vital role in holding the Iranian government accountable for violations of human rights.
HRA remains committed to working alongside our partners in civil society, the Special Rapporteur, the Independent and International Fact-Finding Mission, State and multinational institutions to support justice and accountability for serious human rights violations and possible crimes under international law.
Finally, HRA urges the United Nations to cease allowing known human rights abusers to travel to and participate in high level dialogues, and to uphold its fundamental principles of promoting peace, security and human rights. Allowing individuals with a documented history of human rights violations to enter UN premises undermines States parties efforts and sends a conflicting message concerning the validity of the sanctions.