However, in terms of severity of punishment, the Islamic Republic is the world’s highest ranking country for executing its people. Tehran is also known as the leading state for the execution of minors.
Zaid Ra’ad Al-Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, recently made statements about Iran’s human rights situation that are alarming.
Speaking out last week at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Hussein, who is in his last year in office, stated, “Iran continues to severely restrict freedom of opinion and expression. My office has received numerous reports of human rights defenders, journalists and social media activists being arrested and detained.”
Hussein continued, “Iran also remains the country with the highest reported rate of executions per capita. Many of those executed are drug offenders not guilty of ‘most serious crimes’ under the terms of international law. Since the beginning of the year, at least four children have been put to death, and at least 89 other children remain on death row.” He added, “Last month, the Iranian Parliament passed a long-awaited amendment, which raises the threshold for capital punishment in drug trafficking cases, although some narcotics offenders will still face the possibility of capital punishment. The amendment now awaits approval from the Guardian Council.” However, executions have continued while this approval is pending.
The Press Freedom Organization and Amnesty International have both condemned Iran’s treatment of journalists and human rights activists. They requested the release of several detainees including Alireza Rajaee, a board member of the Association of Iranian Journalists, and Raheleh Rahemipour, a human rights activist whose brother and baby niece “disappeared” in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison.
When the nuclear deal was negotiated, human rights violations were neglected. And while Rouhani is viewed by the West as a “moderate” president, he does not have the final say in Iran’s domestic and foreign policy. That power is held by Iran’s hardline Supreme Leader. Additionally, the international community appears to have paid little attention to Iran’s direct and indirect human rights violations in Syria and Iraq, through the engagements of the IRGC and its elite branch, the Quds Force.
Western governments’ policy vis-à-vis Iran must require Iran’s commitment to the protection of human rights. Human rights are an important issue that was neglected under the nuclear deal.
Putting pressure on Tehran over its poor human rights record can be done via sanctions. Iranian institutions that violate human rights in Iran and abroad, including the IRGC, are the same organizations that pursue nuclear ambitions and violate UN resolution 2231 regarding ballistic missile activities. Governments who argue that imposing sanctions on Iran for its ballistic missile activities is not possible because the rules are ambiguous in this area, can put pressure on Tehran for its human rights violations. There is no ambiguity in this area.