Filter results

  • Friday, April 28 2017
  • Daniel Jiménez
  • Analysis
  • Human rights
  • 0



On 24th January the Altiero Spinelli Building in Brussels hosted a workshop, organised jointly by the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights (DROI) and the Delegation for relations with Iran (D-IR), whose purpose was to analyse the most recent developments regarding human rights in Iran since the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) of July 2015.

The Introductory remarks pointed out at the Iranian government’s good will to discuss reforms and initiate a dialogue in international human rights bodies. However, as remarked, the situation on the ground remains critical. Human rights are violated, with capital punishment still being practiced and the persecution of journalists and of minorities. There is a major gap between the legislation and the state practice. On the other hand, the nuclear deal and its implementation is a major opportunity for trust building between the EU and Iran. The agreement is a good start to build a relationship, from non-controversial issues.

Two experts intervened on this panel; Dr Firouzeh Nahavandi, Professor at the Department of Social and Labour Sciences of Université Libre de Bruxelles and Director of the Centre d’Études de la Coopération Internationale et du Développement (CECID), and Dr Nazila Ghanea, Associate Professor in International Human Rights Law at the University of Oxford and member of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Panel on Freedom of Religion and Belief. The two experts analysed the human rights situation in Iran from a socio-political and a legal perspective respectively.

Dr Nahavandi highlighted that the issues that were raised in the European Parliament (EP) resolution of 25 October 2016 on the EU strategy towards Iran after the nuclear agreement (2015/2274(INI)) remain valid, since there has been no significant change in Iran’s attitude towards human rights. The deterioration of human rights in certain sectors is linked to the embargo and sanctions that were imposed on the country, even though they only explain 20% of the economic problems. The main reasons for Iran’s economic issues are linked to the poor management of the economy, which has been based on authoritarianism and clientelism. Within the Aghazadeh (‘nobles’) class corruption in “rampant”. Economic growth did not exceed 0.5% in the past year and 15 million Iranians experience multidimensional poverty. Underemployment stands at 11%, peaking at 50% to 70% in the regions inhabited by minorities. The new “Resistance economy” model replicates the same structures from the past, failing to produce real change. Relevant issues are children sale, marriage of minors, prostitution or organ sale on the black market. Moreover, the new state plan to produce demographic growth puts pressure on women and has an effect in terms of access to sexual and reproductive rights.

The political structure of Iran involves Middle Ages practices, such as marriage links between the elites to consolidate power. This produces an obstacle to genuine and accountable negotiations.

In the face of these issues, the EU should push the fight against corruption, ensuring coherence from its side in the political pressure for reform (i.e. abolition of all legislation that criminalises consensual same sex conduct and punishes sex between adults, or feminism). The EU should put forward the proposals of the United Nations (UN), ensure that the question of human rights is raised in all negotiations with Iran, and engage with civil society activists. It should monitor the Iranian plan to abolish multiple nationalities, which might result in corrupted practices. Finally, it should support environmental activists, to support their fights against pollution, which affects the countryside particularly and impedes poverty eradication.

Dr Ghanea stressed on the importance of the nuclear deal with Iran, an unprecedented breakthrough that might allow commencing a dialogue on human rights issues in Iran and raising concerns on certain practices. The country’s usual attitude has been of rebuttal, with concerns being labelled as “interference and intervention” in domestic affairs. However, some issues are of concrete relevance. In the second Universal Periodic Review of Iran in October 2015, only 45% of the recommendations were fully accepted. Furthermore, the former UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation in Iran, Dr Ahmed Shaheed, was not allowed access to the country between 2011 and 2016.

According to Dr Ghanea, a path can start from holding Iran accountable for the international treaties it has ratified so far, which can ensure a certain degree of protection to children, civil and political rights, and people with disabilities.

Some structural mechanisms that are of hindrance to human rights standards compliance are pointed out, such as the presence of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards, of the morality police (Herasat) and the structural discrimination of Bahà’ì from universities (Sanjesh). The rule of law and the judicial system are frequently interfered, and prison conditions fail to live up even to the Iranian prison laws themselves. In this context, non-Muslims are discriminated and the 2016 Citizens’ Rights Charter does little to address human rights concerns.

The EU ought to encourage continuity and follow-up to UN mechanism, such as the Universal Periodic Review, and grant support to the current UN Special Rapporteur Asma Jahangir. Delegations meeting with Iranian counterparts should be aware of the human rights issues in the country and receive training, in order to effectively respond to rebuffs from the Iranians on human rights concerns. Ultimately, human rights should be set as standards for the European Parliament.

Human Rights Defenders also participated in the workshop, and pointed out at the easing of tensions, which might allow a dialogue where human tights are kept as priorities. All the panellists who intervened depicted a grim reality in terms of justice and human rights in Iran, whose most important political figure is a non-elected Supreme leader, whose approval is paramount for reforms. However, if the aforementioned positive trend is sustained, there is hope for the establishment of the rule of law in the country.

Written by Roberto Scrivano