Rouhani’s Citizens’ Rights Charter: A Harmful Distraction

Human Rights Deteriorated in Iran Since Signing of Charter, With Many Abuses by Rouhani’s Own Intelligence Ministry

May 1, 2018—President Hassan Rouhani’s signature domestic initiative—a Citizens’ Rights Charter which lays out in 120 articles the rights and freedoms of Iranian citizens as stated in Iranian law—has no ability to impact the human rights situation in Iran in any meaningful way and has in fact done harm by distracting attention from the causes of rights abuses in Iran and the reforms needed.

This assessment, outlined in A Harmful Distraction: The Implications of Rouhani’s Citizens’ Rights Charter for Human Rights in Iran, a new 28-page briefing by the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), underpins CHRI’s recommendation that the charter should no longer be used as a reference point for progress on human rights in Iran.

Download the report here.

“President Rouhani’s Citizens’ Rights Charter has only helped to mask the deterioration in human rights that has occurred in Iran,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of CHRI.

“If Rouhani wants to impact the rights situation in Iran he can start by reigning in his own Intelligence Ministry, which has played a leading role in the unlawful arrests and persecution of rights activists,” Ghaemi added.

Among the key findings of the briefing:

  • Since the charter’s signing in December 2016, there has been a deterioration in all major areas referenced in the document, including the right to freedom of expression, association, assembly and demonstration and the right to due process and a fair trial.
  • Even in ministries under Rouhani’s direct control, rights violations are routine, especially unlawful arrests and charges against rights activists by the Intelligence Ministry.
  • With no means of implementation or enforcement, the charter cannot impact the human rights situation in Iran; it should not be viewed as a sign of progress.
  • Rouhani no longer intends to submit the charter to Parliament as a bill; he now states the charter’s purpose is to document Iranians’ rights and promote public awareness. It does not address the fact that these rights already exist in Iranian law, and they are ignored with impunity.
  • The charter is harming the rights situation in Iran by:
    • Giving a false sense of progress.
    • Reducing pressure to address rights violations.
    • Diverting attention from actions Rouhani could take, such as holding his own Intelligence Ministry accountable to the law and, as the enforcer of Iran’s Constitution, publicly addressing violations of citizens’ rights by the Iranian Judiciary.

“Until the people of Iran are able to freely express their views and dissent and Iran’s intelligence and security agencies are held to the rule of law—and the Judiciary acts to defend that law, no charter, or any mere recitation of rights, will address the human rights crisis in Iran,” noted Ghaemi

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