UN Special Rapporteur calls for accountability on human rights abuses in Iran

March 18, 2022

Javaid Rehman, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation in Iran

On March 17, the United Nations Human Rights Council held its annual review of the human rights situation in Iran as part of its 49th session. In the session, Javaid Rehman, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation in Iran, expressed grave concern over continued human rights abuses in Iran and stressed the need for accountability for crimes committed by regime authorities.

Rehman warned that in 2021, the use of death penalty has increased in Iran, with at least 280 executions, including 10 women and two minors. Many of the executed people belonged to the Baluch and Kurdish minorities, Rehman said.

“The death sentence continued to be imposed for a wide range of acts, including against individuals who have participated in protests,” Rehman warned. Rehman called for the abolishment of the death penalty in Iran, especially the execution of child offenders.

Rehman expressed concern of the regime’s use of excessive force against peaceful protests, including in Khuzestan, in which eight people were killed, against the peaceful protests of Isfahan’s farmers, and the 2019 protests.

In his remarks to the Council, Rehman explained how the flawed justice system of Iran’s regime prevents accountability for human rights violations. “I asked Iranian authorities to undertake fundamental reforms to establish a system of accountability in line with international law, including constitutional, legislative, and administrative reforms, to ensure the separation of powers, independence of the judiciary, political pluralism, and democratic participation in governance and decision-making,” he said.

Rehman also urged to Council to play an active role in establishing accountability for human rights abuses in Iran, especially the mass executions of political prisoners in 1988 and the killing of Iranian protesters in 2019.

“I’m encouraged that some states have used universal jurisdiction to initiate criminal prosecution against individuals who would otherwise not be held accountable for alleged human rights violations,” Rehman said, referring to growing efforts to prosecute regime officials in national criminal courts for their human rights violations.

Rehman stressed that any dialog with the Iranian regime must also include human rights conditions in Iran. This final point is especially important as ongoing talks on the Iranian regime nuclear program have cast a shadow on the regime’s human rights abuses.

“The legal structure, including the lack of independence of the judiciary, as well as obstacles for democratic participation in decision-making, together with the fact that many perpetrators who have committed serious violations remain in positions of power mean that people have in effect no realistic possibility of achieving justice,” Rehman said. “It is imperative that the international community, including the Human Rights Council and individual Member States support the calls for accountability in Iran, and further strengthen the human rights situation in the country.”

In January, 470 current and former UN officials, international jurists, judges, and Nobel laureates wrote a letter to the UN HCR and called for an immediate investigation into the 1988 massacre. The letter especially highlights the role of regime president Ebrahim Raisi and judiciary chief Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei played in the crime against humanity.