London, Jul. 24 – Britain issued a damning report on the
human rights situation in Iran, stating that there had been
“no significant progress” over the year, while human rights had
“deteriorated further in many areas”.
The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office wrote in its Human Rights
Annual Report 2005, released on July 21, that punishment of children in the
Islamic Republic was an “area of concern”, adding, “We have received an
increasing number of reports of juvenile offenders being sentenced to death
or lashing. In several instances, these barbarous punishments have
apparently been carried out. A 16-year-old girl, Atefeh
Rajabi, was reportedly hanged in public in August
2004 for ‘acts incompatible with chastity’”.
The FCO said that such punishments violated Iran’s obligations under the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the United Nations
Convention on the Rights of the Child, adding that the UN Committee on the
Rights of the Child had also made clear its concern earlier this year.
“Sadly, we continue to receive reports of juvenile offenders receiving
death sentences and we have asked the Iranian authorities to look into them
as a matter of urgency”, the report said.
“We remain concerned about the limits imposed on freedom of expression and
assembly, the lack of freedom of religion and the extensive use of the death
penalty”, it added.
The annual report went on to highlight the Islamic Republic’s abuse of the
right to free speech. “Iran has not respected freedom of
expression. The government is increasing its censorship of all the main
media and particularly the internet. It has blocked many websites and weblogs that provide news or comment critical of the
regime and has closed down a number of reformist newspapers. The
authorities have arrested and imprisoned journalists, internet technicians
“In late 2004 several webloggers claimed that
they had been beaten, kept in solitary confinement and tortured. The
government set up a presidential commission to investigate. A former
vice-president of Iran said their testimonies had
‘made committee members weep’. Tehran’s chief prosecutor, Saeed Mortazavi, reportedly
threatened those who gave evidence with lengthy prison sentences and harm
to their family members”.
The report also said that Non-Governmental Organisations
had come under pressure. “The authorities have intimidated and arrested
activists and human rights defenders, including some when they returned
from conferences overseas”.
Regarding the rights of women the United Kingdom’s annual report stated that
discrimination was pervasive. “A woman’s testimony in court is worth half
that of a man. Married women need their husband’s permission to get a
passport and travel overseas”.
The UK will make human rights a
priority issue in its relations with Iran during its Presidency of the
European Union in the second half of 2005, the report added.