First Published: 2004-03-10

UN report slams Iran's systematic repression

UN rapporteur on free speech warns systematic repression, fear stifle freedom in Islamic republic.


Middle East Online

Ligabo was the first UN rapporteur on free speech ever to visit Iran

GENEVA - A UN expert has warned that systematic repression is creating a climate of fear in Iran, where hardliners have gained a stranglehold over government and the judiciary in the country.

Ambeyi Ligabo, UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, said in a report obtained Wednesday that unelected institutions run by hardliners had effectively locked out reformers even though they participated in the highest spheres of Iranian government.

The UN expert underlined that there was a "climate of fear induced by the systematic repression of people expressing critical views against the authorised political and religious doctrine and the functioning of institutions".

Coupled with the "severity and disproportion" of sentences imposed on alleged offenders, that pervasive fear led to self-censorship on the part of journalists, intellectuals, politicians, students and "the population at large", he added in the report.

Ligabo said the Expediency Council, the Council of Guardians, the Supreme Council for Culture and the head of the judiciary exercised "institutional locks on governmental, parliamentary, and judicial processes".

Many of the people whom Ligabo met in Iran told him that "there is freedom of expression but there is no freedom after expression," the report said.

The Kenyan lawyer's report, which is due to be presented to the annual meeting of the UN Human Rights Commission beginning next week, was based on an unprecedented mission to the country last November.

The Iranian student news agency (ISNA) reported the day after Ligabo left on November 11 that a prominent Iranian student activist, who had met the envoy during prison leave, had gone missing.

Highlighting several cases, the report repeated a call for an amnesty for all prisoners prosecuted or sentenced for press and opinion-related offences in Iran.

Ligabo, who met senior government and legal officials, noted "with regret and concern" that he had received no "substantive" response to requests for more information about the death of Iranian-Canadian journalist Zahra Kazemi.

Kazemi was arrested last June for taking photographs outside Tehran's notorious Evin prison.

She later died in hospital from a brain hemorrhage caused by a blow to the head and an intelligence ministry agent has been charged with "participation in a quasi-intentional murder".

"In the present circumstances there will be no adequate and satisfactory response from the authorities to this odious crime... thus allowing the persons responsible for Mrs Kazemi's death to go unpunished," the report said.

Ligabo found that the limit beyond which a statement was regarded as breaching Islamic principles was blurred and the red line "varies extensively, even among clerics".

"There is an urgent need to define more clearly the contents of Islamic principles in the law, in order to avoid arbitrariness in their interpretation," the report said.

Opinion-related offences should also be excluded from the competence of Revolutionary Courts, it added.

The report underlined that lawyers were not even granted immunity for statements they made in court to defend their clients, while parliamentarians who were meant to be granted immunity, had been prosecuted.

Ligabo was the first UN rapporteur on free speech ever to visit the country and one of several human rights experts from the world body who were allowed into Iran in 2003 after being barred by the Islamic regime since the early 1990s.

Advocacy groups on Wednesday urged the 53 member UN Human Rights Commission to take action on Iran in the next few weeks following the turmoil in the country's elections and growing reports of human rights violations.

"We hope that the Canadians... will present a resolution with the help of the European Union," said Human Rights Watch representative Loubna Freih.


Two Danes stabbed by man shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ in Gabon

UN considers rejecting Trump Jerusalem decision

Israeli air traffic halted due to strikes

Iran's schools suffocate in smog

Christmas in Jordan dimmed by Jerusalem crisis

Turkey slams Austria ‘discrimination’

Tunisia elections delayed

Istanbul summit strong on the rhetoric, weak on concrete steps

Morocco’s Islamists elect new leader, walking away from predecessor’s populism

Palestinians call for protests against Pence Jerusalem visit

Palestinian billionaire detained in Saudi Arabia

Egypt opens Rafah crossing for four days

Turkey court releases 7 suspects in New Year attack trial

Palestinian activist killed in Gaza protests

Foreign fighters a worry as IS struggles to survive

Over half Syrian refugees in Lebanon live in 'extreme poverty'

Palestinians killed in continuing protests over Jerusalem occupation

Bourita: Extraordinary meeting between ECOWAS, Morocco to be held beginning of 2018

Saudi-led air strikes, clashes as Yemen forces battle rebels

Sahel force funding shows terrorism fight is Saudi 'priority'

UN 'appalled' at mass execution of jihadists in Iraq

Iraq's Sistani says Hashed should be under government control

Middle-class Egypt adapts as costs soar

Somalia's budget meets IMF terms

Israel PM questioned in graft probe

US says Iran supplied ballistic missile to Yemen rebels

Lebanon approves bid for oil, gas exploration

US to present 'irrefutable evidence' of Iran violations

Istanbul 'to remove Gulen links' from street names

Iraq hangs 38 jihadists

Pence to visit Middle East despite controversy

Hamas chief calls for continued Jerusalem protests

EU to repatriate 15,000 migrants from Libya in two months

Syria Kurds fear US ally will desert them after IS defeat

Israeli drugmaker Teva to cut 14,000 jobs over two years

Turkey rescues 51 migrants stranded on rocks

Saudi, UAE hold talks with Yemen Islamists

18 killed after bomber strikes Mogadishu police academy

Israeli air strikes target Hamas military facilities

US-led air strikes kill 23 civilians in Syria

Israel union calls nationwide strike over pharmaceutical giant job cuts

UN envoy urges Putin to press Assad for elections

Yemen's Huthi rebels release pro-Saleh media staff

Israel intelligence minister invites Saudi prince to visit

Saudi-led strikes kill 30 in rebel-run Yemen prison