UNHRC 37: Iran must cooperate with Special Rapporteur following renewal of mandate

ARTICLE 19 welcomes the adoption by the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) of a resolution on the situation of human rights in Iran at its 37th Session in Geneva, which renews the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Iran for another year. Disappointingly, despite ongoing and serious freedom of expression concerns in the country, the resolution saw reduced support from states at the HRC. We nonetheless welcome the Council’s decision to maintain its scrutiny on Iran and urge the Iranian government to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur to guarantee the rights to free expression and information in the country.

“The Special Rapporteur on Iran’s mandate continues to play an important role in the documentation of human rights violations and abuses, in particular in regards to freedom of expression, and in enabling sustained international scrutiny on the government’s actions. However the success of the mandate requires the Iranian government to cooperate fully with the Special Rapporteur,” said Thomas Hughes, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19.

ARTICLE 19 joined others at the Human Rights Council in mourning of the passing of Asma Jahangir, the late UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran, and called on States to honour her legacy of human rights work by standing with civil society and supporting the continuation of the mandate’s work. We were therefore disappointed that delegations including Pakistan voted against the resolution, while other delegations, such as Brazil and Qatar abstained. Their stance, apparently based on the country’s engagement with other UN mechanisms and steps including the adoption of the Citizen Charter, does not reflect the reality for human rights in Iran, in particular the situation for freedom of expression, as detailed in Asma Jahangir’s last report to the HRC.  

The crackdown in response to the December 2017 protests, the biggest in the country since 2009, has been heavy handed and repressive. Internet shutdowns during the protests also highlighted the government’s continued determination to exercise an iron grip over the free flow of information in Iran.

Across the country, the rights to freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly, and privacy, continue to be violated online and offline. Activists, journalists, trade unionists, lawyers, artists, academics, women and ethnic and religious minorities are increasingly being harassed and intimidated, detained, and subjected to torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment, according to substantial and credible allegations, which for the most part have not been properly investigated by the authorities. At the council we highlighted our concern for detained protesters, and the wrongful detainment of dual national Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe.

The Iranian government’s claim that international human rights scrutiny should be lessened in response to some positive developments in the country, such as the promulgation by President Rouhani of the 2017 “Citizen Charter”, overlooks the extent to which the government continues to deliberately violate human rights, including the right to freedom of expression. Asma Jahangir was making progress in furthering dialogue with the Iranian government to improve this situation, demonstrating the importance of this mandate continuing. This would therefore have been precisely the wrong moment to reduce international scrutiny on the human rights situation in Iran, and we hope that that dialogue will continue under the guidance of the new mandate holder.

The resolution, led by Sweden, was put to a vote by the 47-member HRC, with 21 States voting “yes”, 7 States voting “no”, and 19 States abstaining. This saw a reduction in one “yes” vote from the consideration of the last resolution renewing the Special Rapporteur’s mandate, in 2017. However we welcome the decision by states including Cote d’Ivoire to fully endorse the resolution, instead of abstaining.

The renewal of the Special Rapporteur’s mandate will mean the government’s claims towards progress on human rights can be assessed and its actions held up to scrutiny by the Council. Following the decision of the HRC, the Iranian government must ensure full cooperation with the new Special Rapporteur, including by facilitating a country visit, in order to enable genuine progress on human rights and free expression.


The full resolution and votes will be made available here.