Saturday, 23 April 2016
UK criticizes Iran over its draconian use of death penalty
UK’s Foreign Office (FCO) published its annual human rights report on Friday, April 21. The report deals with the criminal attack last year against camp Liberty in Iraq and highlights grave injustices and human rights abuses concerning the death penalty, including the execution of teenagers sentenced to death for supposed criminal offenses they carried out as children. UK's Home Office published recently a document revealing that political opponents and/or activists and their families are often detained on the pretext of being involved in drug smuggling. "In some cases those with a political profile or those who have come to the adverse attention of the authorities for other reasons could face victimization in the application of drug smuggling charges. This could lead to disproportionate punishment amounting to persecution or serious harm"
In the part related to Iraq, the study refers to the situation of Camp Liberty, home to the PMOI/MeK members, located in Baghdad International Airport, saying, ‘On 29 October, rockets were fired at Camp Liberty, a temporary transit location for members of the Mojahedin-e-Khalq, killing 24 residents and injuring others. FCO Minister for the Middle East, Tobias Ellwood, condemned the incident and called on the GOI to bring those responsible to justice. Officials at the British Embassy in Baghdad raised this issue with the Office of the Iraqi Prime Minister to make clear the need for an urgent and comprehensive investigation into the incident. On 11 November, the UK’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN in New York underlined our concerns in the Security Council and to the Iraqi Permanent Representative. The GOI has begun an investigation, which we are following. We continued work with the UN High Commission for Refugees which is assessing applications made by residents for relocation.’
In regard with Iran, the report has lambasted the Iranian regime over its draconian use of the death penalty. The study spans key areas including freedom of expression, arrest of political prisoners, crackdown on women and minorities, saying, ‘Iran’s use of the death penalty continued to be a serious concern. There were an estimated 966 executions in 2015, the highest number of executions in over 10 years. Iran continues to use the death penalty for juvenile offenders, in direct contradiction to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Iran is a signatory. Iran also routinely uses the death penalty for crimes not internationally recognised as “most serious”, for example drugs-related offences.’
Excerpts from the report on Iran:
‘On freedom of expression, the crackdown on use of social media came to a head in November when the cyber unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) arrested over 170 individuals, accusing them of publishing “obscene” content on instant-messaging mobile apps. Reports of some of the arrests cited “facilitating users’ access to obscene content via groups on mobile networks, publishing obscene Iranian and foreign content in text and visual format, encouraging people to commit offences, and publishing texts that insulted national figures”.
Iranian authorities continue to arrest and detain human rights defenders and political prisoners by the hundreds; many on vague political charges such as “propaganda against the regime”.
There continue to be grave concerns over access to, and the independence of, lawyers in Iran. Article 48 of the revised Code of Criminal Procedures (effective as of June 2015) formally provides defendants the right to request “the presence of a lawyer at the onset of detention”. However, a note to Article 48 allows for exceptions. For example, if the accused is detained on suspicion of committing offences such as organised crime or crimes against national security (of which human rights activists are frequently convicted), they may be prohibited from accessing a lawyer for up to a week after arrest.
Women do not enjoy the same rights and privileges as men in Iran, and 2015 saw a number of debates between various factions of the regime about the rights of women.
Minority religions, and even non-Shi’a Muslims, face persecution and harassment in Iran. Followers of non-recognised religions, such as the Baha’i faith, are persecuted particularly severely. On 15 November, 20 Baha’is were reportedly arrested across Iran, and 23 businesses belonging to Baha’is were shut down. As of the end of December, over 80 Baha’is were reportedly detained for the peaceful practice of their faith.