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.


Moscow seeks to boost its influence in Kurdistan through oil

Tillerson does not expect Gulf crisis to be resolved soon

Lebanon approves first budget since 2005

Iraq army takes last Kurd-held area of Kirkuk province

Ancient Turkish town set to vanish forever under floodwaters

Germany advances Israel submarine deal after corruption holdup

Bashir Gemayel's killer convicted, 35 years later

SDF hails 'historic victory' against IS in Raqa

Hamas delegation visits Iran

Turkish court orders release of teacher on hunger strike

Yemen rebel youth minister urges children to join war

Iran's Guards show no intention of curbing activities in Mideast

EU will cut some money for Turkey as ties sour

Iraqi workers return to oil fields retaken from Kurds

Kurdish disarray shows resurgence of Iraq's army

Iranian military chief visits frontline near Syria's Aleppo

Turkey issues arrest warrants for 110 people over Gulen links

Hamas calls US unity comments ‘blatant interference’

OPEC chief pleased with oil market rebalancing

Turkish police detain leading civil society figure

G7, tech giants meet to tackle terror online

Iraq’s Kurdish regional government open to Baghdad talks

Tensions flare among Yemen's rebels

Baghdad court issues arrest warrant for Iraqi Kurd VP

Erdogan, Nigerian counterpart to ramp up cooperation

Russian medics operate on Yemen's Saleh despite embargo

Baghdad condemns oil deal between Russia’s Rosneft, Kurds

Power shifts again in Iraq's multi-ethnic Kirkuk

Syrian general accused of journalist deaths killed in Deir Ezzor

Raqa liberators ready for civilian handover, on to next battle

Revolutionary Guards say Iranian missile program will continue

Erdogan calls on three major mayors to resign

ICC investigating several war crimes in Mali

Erdogan says may shut Iraqi border at any moment

Tunisian couple jailed for 'public indecency' over car kiss

Next round of Syria talks at end October

Gazans hope Palestinian reconciliation ends their woes

PSG's Khelaifi to be quizzed in Swiss World Cup probe

UN urges de-escalation in Iraq

Haley: Iran must be judged in totality of its aggressive behaviour

EU says Israeli settlements illegal under international law

Kurdish independence goes from dream to dust

Female commander more than just poster girl for Raqa victory

Saudi airline flies to Baghdad for first time in 27 years

Wanted Dead: France's approach to IS jihadists