Iran: Authorities shirk accountability as UN expert visit gets underway

Iran: Authorities shirk accountability as UN expert visit gets underway - Civic Space

Medical and healthcare are among the services that have been badly affected by sanctions. Photo credit: Amir Mardani/Shutterstock

As Iran prepares to welcome the United Nations Special Rapporteur on unilateral coercive measures, ARTICLE 19 and 10 other human rights organisations call on Iranian authorities to take responsibility for the current human rights situation in the country. 

The visit by Professor Alena Douham, the UN Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of the unilateral coercive measures, will take place between 7 May and 18 May. Douham will assess the impact sanctions have had on human rights in the country, meeting with government officials, members of parliament, members of  the judiciary, representatives of international organisations, and with civil society organisations, among others. 

ARTICLE 19 views the visit as an opportunity for Douham to gain an understanding of the human rights situation in Iran, and we urge her to encourage her fellow rapporteurs to renew their efforts to visit Iran to fulfil their mandates, and to appeal to Iranian officials to facilitate these visits.

At the same time, ARTICLE 19 joins a chorus of human rights organisations to express disappointment. After  14  years of denying access to UN human rights monitors’ requests, Iranian authorities have allowed access for a single mandate – the one responsible for investigating external actors’ liability for rights violations. All previous requests for access to the country to investigate the well-documented record of human rights violations by the state have been denied. This is an inconspicuous attempt to blunt scrutiny of its record of non-cooperation with the UN human rights system.  

“While we respect the Special Rapporteur Professor Alena Douham and her mandate, we do not believe the invitation by Iranian authorities was made in good faith,” said ARTICLE 19’s Director of Middle East and North Africa, Saloua Ghazouani. “This seems especially clear in light of the fact that past requests by UN monitors – and from Professor Douham’s own colleagues – to investigate violations perpetuated by the state have been rejected.”

ARTICLE 19 is also concerned about this visit taking place in the context of the states’s well-documented lack of transparency, severely restricted civic space, and the persecution of human rights defenders and researchers, including those who were arrested while undertaking research to document the impact of sanctions on the right to health. We fear this visit will go ahead without access to uncensored or comprehensive data and statistics or unfettered access to independent civil society.

ARTICLE 19 has undertaken work to understand the impact sanctions have had on access to the Internet for people based in Iran (see chapter 2 of the report 2020 Internet Shutdowns in Iran), and actively encourages and advocates for reform on sanctions policies that have negative consequences for the population in Iran. However, it is well-documented that lack of access to the Internet cannot be blamed solely on sanctions, a scenario Iranian authorities have often attempted to convey. Our work on access to information and transparency also raised concerns about the mismanagement and corruption that contributed to the worsening situation regarding access to healthcare and a deteriorating economy that is often blamed on sanctions. 

We encourage the Special Rapporteur to consider these contexts of state violations during her visit and to conduct her investigation with the acknowledgement that the state is co-opting the real concerns posed by sanctions to distract from its own responsibility. 

Read the full statement