UN HRC: Iran Special Rapporteur Mandate Extended

UN HRC: Iran Special Rapporteur Mandate Extended - Civic Space

ARTICLE 19 welcomes the adoption by the Human Rights Council of a resolution on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran at its 28th Session in Geneva

“The adoption of this resolution and extension of the Special Rapporteur’s mandate is crucial to keeping sustained international attention on the grave situation for freedom of expression in Iran,” said Thomas Hughes, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19. “Iran must fully cooperate with the Special Rapporteur, including by ensuring his full and unhindered access to the country”, Hughes added.

The resolution (HRC/28/L.17) was adopted by vote, with 20 votes in favour, 11 against, and 16 abstentions.

The extension of the mandates responds to the appeals of an open letter from civil society, which ARTICLE 19 joined.

ARTICLE 19 is profoundly disappointed that a number of democratic States, questioned the need for an extension of the special rapporteur’s mandate. The abstentions of Brazil and South Africa, and the “no” vote of India, send a dangerous signal to Iran at a time where violations of the right to freedom of expression in Iran are dramatically increasing.

In the last four years the Special Rapporteur has highlighted that the human rights situation in Iran remains dire and is increasingly under threat.

In his latest report, the Special Rapporteur again confirmed that there were at least 30 journalists behind bars in Iran at the start of 2015. This includes 13 bloggers and journalists detained since July 2014. They are detained for their legitimate reporting under vaguely worded “national security” charges including “propaganda against the State,” “assembly and collusion against the system” and “insulting the Supreme Leader”.

ARTICLE 19 remains particularly concerned at the situation for freedom of expression online in Iran.

Iran has implemented a 1200% increase in funding allocation for cyber security in the last three years, which has resulted in an intensified crackdown on social media. This includes the execution of blogger Soheil Arab for “insulting the Prophet Mohammed” on Facebook, in September 2014 and the sentencing of eight young Iranians to a total of 127 years in prison (which an appeals court later reduced to 114 years) for their peaceful Facebook activities in April 2014. These users were arrested under the vague charges of “colluding against national security” and “propaganda against the State”.

The creation by the Human Rights Council of a special rapporteur on the right to privacy is particularly welcome, and we look forward, once appointed, to her or his close cooperation with country mandates.

As noted in ARTICLE 19’s oral statement responding to Iran’s Universal Periodic Review outcome, Iran’s claims that Article 25 of the Iranian Constitution – “Secrecy of Communication” – guarantee the right to privacy, are false. This right is routinely violated as the Constitution permits surveillance for any communications “deemed contrary to domestic laws”.

The dire situation for freedom of expression in Iran, highlighted by the Special Rapporteur and during the country’s recent UPR, only serves to demonstrate why continued independent expert scrutiny on the country is needed now more than ever.