The authorities maintained severe restrictions on freedoms of expression, association and assembly. Dissidents and human rights defenders, including minority rights and women’s rights activists, were arbitrarily arrested, detained incommunicado, imprisoned after unfair trials and banned from travelling abroad. There were scores of prisoners of conscience and political prisoners. Torture and other ill-treatment were common and committed with impunity. Women, religious and ethnic minorities, and members of the LGBTI community were subject to discrimination in law and practice. The cruel judicial punishments of flogging and amputation continued to be used. Official sources acknowledged 314 executions, but a total of 544 were recorded. The true figure may be considerably higher.
Iran’s nuclear programme continued to cause international tension. The UN, EU and some governments, including the USA, maintained and in some cases imposed additional sanctions, including travel bans on suspected human rights violators. Food insecurity and economic hardship grew.
Thousands of prospective candidates for parliamentary election in March were disqualified.
Also in March, the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur investigating human rights in Iran was renewed for one year. Both he and the UN Secretary-General issued reports identifying widespread human rights violations, including failure to adhere to the rule of law and impunity.
Amendments to the Penal Code passed by parliament in February continued to allow cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment, and punishments not based on codified law, and provided impunity in some circumstances for rape. They neither prohibited the death penalty for juvenile offenders nor executions by stoning. The amended Penal Code was not in force at the end of the year.
In December, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution urging the government to improve human rights in Iran.Top of page
The authorities maintained tight restrictions on freedoms of expression, association and assembly. They took steps to create a controlled, national internet, routinely monitored telephone calls, blocked websites, jammed foreign broadcasts and took harsh action against those who spoke out. Media workers and bloggers were harassed and detained. Student activists and members of minority groups were imprisoned or harassed, with some barred from higher education. Scores of prisoners of conscience arrested in previous years remained in prison and more were sentenced to prison terms in 2012.
Dozens of independent trade unionists remained imprisoned for their peaceful trade union activities.
Government critics and opponents were arbitrarily arrested and detained by security forces. They were held incommunicado for long periods and denied medical care. Many were tortured or otherwise ill-treated. Tens were sentenced to prison terms after unfair trials.
Dozens of peaceful government critics detained in connection with mass protests in 2009-2011 remained in prison or under house arrest throughout the year. Many were prisoners of conscience.
Human rights defenders, including lawyers, trade unionists, minority rights activists and women’s rights activists, continued to face harassment, arbitrary arrest and detention, and imprisonment after unfair trials. Many, including some sentenced after unfair trials in previous years, were prisoners of conscience. The authorities persistently harassed activists’ families.
Political and other suspects continued to face grossly unfair trials before Revolutionary and Criminal Courts. They often faced vaguely worded charges that did not amount to recognizably criminal offences and were convicted, sometimes in the absence of defence lawyers, on the basis of “confessions” or other information allegedly obtained under torture. Courts accepted such “confessions” as evidence without investigating how they were obtained.
The security forces continued to torture and otherwise ill-treat detainees with impunity. Commonly reported methods included beatings, mock execution, threats, confinement in small spaces and denial of adequate medical treatment.
At least eight deaths in custody may have resulted from torture, but none were independently investigated.
Women faced discrimination in law and practice in relation to marriage and divorce, inheritance, child custody, nationality and international travel. Women breaching a mandatory dress code faced expulsion from university. Some higher education centres introduced gender segregation, or restricted or barred women from studying certain subjects.
A Family Protection Bill that would increase discrimination remained under discussion. The draft Penal Code failed to address existing discrimination, maintaining, for example, that a woman’s testimony holds half the value of that of a man.
LGBTI people continued to face discrimination in law and practice.Top of page
Members of ethnic minorities, including Ahwazi Arabs, Azerbaijanis, Baluch, Kurds and Turkmen, were discriminated against in law and practice, being denied access to employment, education and other economic, social and cultural rights on an equivalent basis with other Iranians. The use of minority languages in government offices and for teaching in schools remained prohibited. Activists campaigning for the rights of minorities faced official threats, arrest and imprisonment.
The authorities failed to adequately protect Afghan refugees from attack and forced some to leave Iran. In Esfahan, local authorities banned Afghan nationals from entering a city park.
Azerbaijani activists criticized the Iranian authorities’ response to the 11 August earthquake in Qaradagh, East Azerbaijan, calling it slow and inadequate, and accused them of downplaying the destruction caused and the number of lives lost while detaining some of those helping with relief efforts. In September, 16 minority activists received six-month suspended prison sentences for security-related convictions in connection with their relief work.Top of page
The authorities discriminated against non-Shi’a minorities, including other Muslim communities, dissident Shi’a clerics, members of Sufi religious orders and the Ahl-e Haq faith, and certain other religious minorities and philosophical associations, including converts from Islam to Christianity. Persecution of Baha’is intensified; Baha’is were publicly demonized by officials and state-controlled media.
Sentences of flogging and amputation continued to be imposed and carried out.
Hundreds of people were sentenced to death. Official sources acknowledged 314 executions. Credible unofficial sources suggested that at least 230 other executions were also carried out, many of them in secret, totalling 544. The true figure may have been far higher, exceeding 600.
Of those executions officially acknowledged, 71% were for drugs-related offences and followed unfair trials. Many were from poor and marginalized communities, including Afghan nationals. The death penalty remained applicable in cases of murder, rape, deployment of firearms during a crime, spying, apostasy, extra-marital relations and same-sex relations.
There were at least 63 public executions. No executions by stoning were known to have occurred but at least 10 people remained under sentence of death by stoning.