Highlights of the 2014 State Dept. Human Rights Report on Iran

The State Department released its 2014 Human Rights Report for Iran, which highlighted the country’s restrictions on freedoms of “assembly, speech, religion, and press; and disregard for the physical integrity of persons, whom authorities arbitrarily and unlawfully detained, tortured, or killed” to be its most severe human rights violations. Last year, for the twelfth consecutive year, the UN General Assembly expressed concern for Iran’s “serious ongoing and recurring human rights violations” as well as the government’s lack of cooperation with UN mechanisms. The report notes that the Iranian government has done little to “investigate, prosecute, punish, or otherwise hold accountable officials” who are responsible for these human rights violations.

Among the civil liberties that have been violated in Iran are: freedom of speech and press; Internet, religious, academic freedom; freedom of peaceful assembly and association; and freedom of movement. Speech and writing deemed “detrimental to the fundamental principles of Islam or the rights of the public” are not protected under the constitution. Publicly criticizing the country’s system of government, supreme leader, or official religion is not permitted, and individuals who commit these acts are subject to prosecution. Private online communications are monitored by the government, despite restricted access to the Internet and heavily censored online content. Social and political activism is also monitored and suppressed by prohibiting independent student organizations on university campuses.

Lack of respect for the integrity of the person was also noted as a major human rights problem. These violations included arbitrary deprivation of life; torture and other cruel treatment and punishment; politically motivated abductions; arbitrary arrest or detention; and denial of fair public trial. All forms of torture “for the purpose of extracting confession or acquiring information” are banned by the Constitution; however,  there have been many reports of security forces and prison personnel torturing and abusing detainees and prisoners. Harsh prison conditions, solitary confinement, and torture have reportedly caused several suicides among prisoners. Prison authorities often denied medical treatment for injuries and illness caused by prisoners’ poor living conditions.

Violations related to the government included failure to respect political rights, such as the right of citizens to change their government, as well as corruption and lack of transparency. The Constitution allows citizens to change their president and Islamic Consultative Assembly members through free and fair elections; however, candidate vetting is based on arbitrary criteria that have “abridged this right.” During the 2013 presidential election, only eight out of 686 registered candidates for president were selected, none of whom were women. The Constitution also allows for the formation of political parties, but licenses to operate are only granted to parties whose ideology are in line with the Islamic regime. Members of political parties that the regime does not approve of face harassment, violence, and imprisonment. Current interpretation of the Constitution bans women and followers of religions other than Shia Islam from serving as supreme leader or president, or as as members of the Assembly of Experts, Guardian Council,  or Expediency Council.

Human rights groups and activists face restrictions on their work by the government and are often harassed or arrested for their inquiries. Activists have also been prevented from leaving the country, received intimidating phone calls from government officials, and been threatened with blackmail. With regards to corruption and lack of transparency in the government, officials from all branches of the government engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) reportedly smuggles pharmaceutical products and raw materials and has access to foreign currency at preferential exchange rates. Lastly, public access to government information is not provided.