Following the death in custody of Mahsa Jhina Amini at the hands of Iran’s ‘morality police’ in September 2022, the country was engulfed by protests demanding fundamental political change, justice, and freedom. The authorities responded with a brutal crackdown, killing hundreds, and injuring, arbitrarily detaining and torturing thousands of others. Rather than holding the members of the security forces and officials responsible to account, the authorities have adopted a range of legislative measures that would further violate the rights to freedom of expression and assembly of people in Iran, and would shield human rights violators from accountability.
In this March 2023 submission to the UN, ARTICLE 19 notes with grave concern several such legislative proposals, including those which provide prosecutorial and judicial authorities tools to subject dissenters to even harsher punishments.
Specifically, this includes a draft bill to amend the Islamic Penal Code that, if enacted, would prescribe harsh punishments including fines, imprisonment, and even the death penalty for ‘statements contrary to facts regarding issues on which an official statement must be made but no such statement has yet been made’. The bill also seeks to place women and girls who refuse to comply with forced veiling laws under social and economic siege by depriving them of civil, political, social, cultural, and economic rights.
The submission also examines multiple statements made by Islamic Republic officials and policies adopted since the start of the uprising in relation to forced veiling. The statements promise harsher crackdowns on those opposing forced veiling, and include proposals to use facial recognition technology to enforce such laws, and measures to deprive those who defy them of basic rights and services such as banking, and even punish those who provide services to women and girls who defy discriminatory forced veiling laws.
A further cause for concern is the User Protection Bill, which aims to formalise the nationalisation of the internet, including by placing internet governance in the hands of security forces and disabling the use of virtual private networks (VPNs).