NEW YORK, NY – An event titled “One Year of ‘Woman, Life, Freedom’: The Ongoing Persecution of Minorities in the Islamic Republic of Iran” hosted by HRA in partnership with OutRight International was held yesterday in New York, at Scandinavia House. The gathering, in the margins of the 78th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA-78), addressed the ongoing human rights situation in Iran.
The event was a reminder of the challenges faced by minorities in Iran, especially in the wake of the “Woman, Life, Freedom” protests. The demonstrations, which began a year ago following the tragic death in detention of Zhina Mahsa Amini, have drawn attention to the Iranian authorities’ excessive use of force and rampant human rights violations.
Independent journalist, Deepa Parent, expertly moderated the session. Opening remarks were courageously delivered by Iranian human rights activists, who, despite the risks, provided virtual comments directly from within Iran.
Dr. Javaid Rehman, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran, offered insightful keynote remarks that outlined the challenges and potential paths forward for improving human rights in the country.
Skylar Thompson, representing Human Rights Activists (HRA) presented three key areas the international community can urgently address the cycle of impunity in Iran including through continuing to support UN-led investigations including through the renewal of the FFMI mandate, the renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Iran and steadfast support for resolutions on Iran. Second, she added the need for pursuing international pathways to justice notably through the use of universal jurisdiction in light of the unwillingness to investigate violations domestically. She concluded that the continued and united condemnation against violations of human rights and international law are essential because as she stated, “silence is complicity.”
Other panelists, including Simin Fahendej from the Baha’i International Community (BIC) and Awin Mostafazade from Kurdpa, provided rich context to the discussion, shedding light on the depth and breadth of discrimination that various minority groups encounter daily.
As the event concluded, the consensus was clear: the international community must redouble its efforts to address the plight of minorities in Iran. The event, which was open to the media, will undoubtedly leave a lasting impression on all who attended.
As the 54th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council comes to a close, HRA reflects on a month of United Nations advocacy and why sustained international attention on the situation of human rights in Iran is imperative in light of the widespread, ongoing abuse and the disreputable denial by the State.
The 54th Session of the Human Rights Council commenced with a statement by Volker Türk, who acknowledged the passing of Zhina Mahsa Amini and expressed concern over the troubling human rights violations that have unfolded in the past year. This included the introduction of the new Hijab Bill, strict legal penalties, an increased use of the death penalty, and the continued repression at the hands of the morality police.
HRA’s Director of Global Advocacy and Accountability took part in a side event titled “A Year of the Woman, Life, Freedom Movement,” hosted by IHRDC. During this event, she explored the wide-ranging implications of Iran’s new Hijab and Chastity Bill, with particular emphasis on the grave concerns surrounding the expanded authority granted to the Basij forces throughout the country.
Simultaneously, during the 54th session, the Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) marked the one-year anniversary of Mahsa Amini’s passing by expressing concerns about the Iranian government’s intensified repression and reprisals against its citizens. Additionally, the FFM raised alarm regarding new laws, especially those severely curbing the rights of women and girls. Furthermore, HRA continued its engagement with the FFM and the UN Special Rapporteur on Iran, participating in meetings to support their mandates concerning Iran. Furthermore, HRA actively engaged in meetings with member states during this period continually briefing on emerging issue areas.
139th Session of the Human Rights Committee
In an effort to shed light on significant human rights abuses, HRA, in collaboration with its partners, submitted a formal written update to the Human Rights Committee in early October in preparation for its review of Iran. This update specifically addressed the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, media freedom and the safety of journalists, freedom of expression online, the right to privacy, the situation of human rights lawyers and defenders, and access to information. HRA also engaged in informal dialogues with committee experts regarding human rights in Iran, preparing for the interactive dialogue.
During the session, Thompson emphasized the ongoing human rights violations in Iran, particularly with regard to the right to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association. Furthermore, she informed the Committee about the unjust treatment of journalists, charged with national security offenses after trials lacking any semblance of due process, all for simply exercising their fundamental right to freedom of expression. Thompson stated, “Although repression against the freedom of information was already widespread, with journalists facing arrests, interrogations, imprisonments, surveillance, harassment, and threats, it has escalated since the outbreak of the ‘Woman, Life, Freedom’ protests triggered by the death in detention of Zhina Mahsa Amini in September 2022.”
During the same session, the Committee conducted a comprehensive review of the human rights situation in Iran, shedding light on grave violations, including instances of torture, the excessive use of force in response to recent protests, and the status of LGBTI rights. Regrettably, the delegation from the Islamic Republic chose not to provide substantive responses and even resorted to intimidation tactics when questioned about an individual listed on the EU sanctions list. See the Spreading Justice profileof Zohreh Elahian. Elahian’s position within the delegation and travel to Switzerland as part of Iran’s delegation was questioned by Ms. Marcia Kran as part of the formal dialogue between the Committee and the delegation. Elahian’s travel was also condemned by the Chair of the Delegation for a relation with Iran within the European Parliament, Cornelia Ernst.
Following the session, the Human Rights Committee made a poignant observation, stating, “Most of the substantive questions remain unanswered.” Despite persistent inquiries regarding LGBT rights, torture, and the excessive use of force in recent protests, the Committee received no satisfactory responses.
As the session closes HRA remains steadfast in its commitment to amplifying the voices of Iranians on the international stage. Sustained international dialogue and attention are crucial for Iran, as it ensures that the ongoing struggles of the Iranian people are not only heard but also acted upon by the global community. By maintaining a consistent focus on Iran, the international community can play a vital role in holding the Iranian government accountable for violations of human rights.
HRA remains committed to working alongside our partners in civil society, the Special Rapporteur, the Independent and International Fact-Finding Mission, and State and multinational institutions to support justice and accountability for serious human rights violations and possible crimes under international law.
Finally, HRA urges the United Nations to cease allowing known human rights abusers to travel to and participate in high-level dialogues, and to uphold its fundamental principles of promoting peace, security, and human rights. Allowing individuals with a documented history of human rights violations to enter UN premises undermines State parties’ efforts and sends a conflicting message concerning the validity of the sanctions.
Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- On the World Day against the Death Penalty, the Center of Statistics of Human Rights Activists in Iran (HRA) has published its annual report in an effort to sensitize the public about the death penalty situation in Iran, particularly thousands of death-row convicts awaiting their looming executions.
HRA’s Statistics Center relies on the work of HRANA reporters, as well as a network of independent and verifiable sources. It also incorporates the judicial authorities’ announcements or confirmations of prisoner executions on media, and as such, is exposed to a margin of error representing efforts by the Iranian authorities to omit, conceal, or restrict the collection of such data.
Between October 10, 2022, and October 8, 2023, at least 659 convicts were executed by hanging in Iran, rising to 24% compared to the same period last year. Of these executions, Seven were carried out in public. Many of the defendants were denied a fair trial and due process.
HRANA obtained 580 reports regarding executions and the death penalty in Iran during this period. The identified executed individuals, include 17 women and 1 juvenile offender under the age of 18 at the time of the alleged crime. Compared to the last period, the execution of female offenders has decreased 15%.
According to the reports obtained by HRANA, over this period, Iranian authorities sentenced at least 164 defendants to the death penalty, including at least 5 women, and 2 public executions. Issuing death sentences rose by 84% compared to the last year.
As the chart below shows a breakdown of executions by capital offense: 56.60% for drug and narcotic offenses, 35.05% for murder, 2.58% for rape, 2.28% for unknown reasons, 1.21% for political or security-related offenses, 0.61% for “Corruption on Earth”, 0.61% for spying, terror, and bombing, 0.46% for “Corruption on Earth” (non-political), 0.46% for ideological, political, or religious reasons, 0.15% for Adultery – Types of consensual sexual relations
The pie chart below displays execution numbers by the province in which they took place. According to this chart, the Alborz (where three overcrowded prisons are located) had the highest number of executions at 15.33%. Sistan and Baluchestan and Kerman Provinces come second and third, with 11.53% and 8.65%, respectively.
The chart below depicts the distribution of execution information sources. The chart indicates that 63% of HRANA-confirmed executions were not announced by official Iranian sources. Undisclosed executions are referred to as “secret” executions.
The chart down shows the execution numbers by gender.
The chart below displays execution numbers by the prison where the executions were carried out. The Zahedan Prison And Adel Abad of Shiraz officials have carried out the highest number.
The chart below displays the percentage of executions carried out in public Vs the number of executions that were carried out in prison. According to statistics, 1.06% of the executions in Iran were carried out in public.
Over the past eleven days, at least 57 prisoners, including two women and two prisoners of conscience, have been executed in various Iranian prisons. The executions were for drug-related crimes, murder, “spreading corruption on earth,” and blasphemy. HRANA has compiled a statistical analysis of the details of the executions during this period.
According to HRANA, the news agency of Human Rights Activists, there has been a noticeable increase in the execution of prisoners in Iranian prisons from April 28 to May 9, 2023.
Based on the reports compiled by HRANA, the death sentences were carried out in several prisons, including Rajai Shahr (Karaj), Ghezel Hesar (Karaj), Urmia, Salmas, Ardabil, Dastgerd (Isfahan), Vakilabad (Mashhad), Neishabur, Torbat-e-Jam, Rasht, Yazd, Birjand, Qazvin, Minab, Bandar Abbas, Zahedan, Khorramabad, and Iranshahr.
Out of the 57 executed prisoners, 36 were convicted of drug-related charges, 17 for murder, two for insulting the Prophet of Islam, and one for alleged “spreading corruption on earth.” In one case the charges remain unknown.
At least 38 death-row prisoners were also transferred to solitary confinement in Salmas, Urmia, Khorin, Ghezel Hesar (Karaj), Yazd, Bandar Abbas, Birjand, Adelabad (Shiraz) and Zahedan, which could be a prelude to their execution. HRANA is investigating their fate, and the statistics presented in this report could increase.
As of the time of writing, most of these executions have not been announced by official sources or media inside Iran.
The issuance and execution of death sentences violate the right to live and have been heavily criticized by international organizations, with Iran ranking first globally in execution rate per capita.
On May 9, UN Human Rights Chief Volker Türk called these recent increases in executions “frightening” and urged Iranian authorities to halt all executions. “On average so far this year, over 10 people are put to death each week in Iran, making it one of the world’s highest executors,” said Türk.
In 2022, the Department of Statistics and Publication of Human Rights Activists in Iran registered 457 reports on the execution of 565 people and death sentences for 92 people, six of whom were sentenced to be hanged in public. Of these 565 executions, two death sentences were carried out in public, and five were juvenile offenders who were under 18 years old at the time of committing the alleged crime.
The breakdown of charges for these executions is as follows: 122 individuals were executed for drug-related offenses, 59 for murder, 6 for undisclosed charges, 1 for adultery, 1 for ideological charges, 1 for corruption, 1 for Moharebeh (political security), and 1 for non-political Moharebeh.
Skylar Thompson, the head of Global Advocacy and Accountability of Human Rights Activists, stated that “the surging rate of executions in Iran illustrates an utter disregard for human life. Under no circumstance does the ongoing use of the death penalty, for drug-related offenses in particular, amount to what is permittable under international law. Iranian authorities have an absolute obligation to uphold international human rights standards and instead, there is ongoing impunity for grave violations of the right to life–and more. The international community must not delay in sounding the alarm, they should call for a stay of executions for those currently facing execution and a moratorium on the death penalty, at a minimum, for crimes not amounting to “most serious” under international law.”
HRANA – “A surge in Crackdowns Across Iran” Panel Discussion was held yesterday, 27 September 2022 in person at Atlantic council building in Washington DC. The panel discussion that was hosted jointly by Human Rights Activists in Iran (HRA) and Atlantic council was also broadcasted online through various channels.
The discussion Moderated by Holly Darges from Atlantic council’s Iran Source included diverse speakers and panelists from US Department of States, Atlantic Council, Article 19, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Baha’is of the United States, and Human rights Activists in Iran (HRA).
William F. Wechsler the senior Director of Rafik Hariri Center & Middle East programs of Atlantic Council started the seminar by welcoming the guests. He also mentioned that the initial objective of the event at the early stages of planning has been “to call attention to dynamic that was happening inside Iran that was not getting as much attention and now, of course, the world is watching”, then he continues to remind us that Iran threatens neighbors in the region and in the rest of the world however “the first people that it threatens and the first victims are the people in Iran itself.” After setting the tone for the panel discussion ahead, Wechsler introduces the Keynote speaker Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iran and Iraq, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Press, and public diplomacy of US Department of State, Jennifer Gavito.
“The government of Iran has denied Iranians their human rights including through severe restrictions on the rights to peaceful assembly, freedom of association, freedom of religion or belief, freedom of expression. For decades political decent has been met with violent repression from the Iranian regime”, Das Gavito expressed concerns for the human right situation in Iran.
Das Gavito mentions the recent violent crackdown on peaceful protestors following the Mahsa Amini’s Death and the increased pressure on Iranian women by the Morality Police. Then she speaks of brave women who fight for their fundamental rights and continues to say, “The protests that we are seeing throughout Iran in spite of the government retaliation and attempts to obfuscate reality show very clearly that the Iranian people and the Islamic Republic of Iran do not see eye to eye”.
“The United States strongly supports the human rights of all Iranian women including the right to peacefully assemble and to express themselves without fear of violence” DAS Gavito then emphasizes that Iran’s human rights abuses is not limited to suppression women’s rights and peaceful assembly, rather Iran has a large number of political prisoners. She mentions the violation of rights of religious minorities by Iranian Government who have been targeted for their beliefs as well. DAS Gavito promised the people of Iran that the American government will hold the violators of human rights accountable. As an example, she pointed to the recent sanction of the moral security police and high-rank officials and said that the actions of the American government will not be limited to these cases and sanctions.
After DAS Gavito, Holly Darges, as the Moderator, gave a general explanation about the panel process and the general description of the events of the recent protests in Iran, and noted that the suppression of protests and the human rights situation in Iran is at a very critical stage. Darges then introduces all the panelists and starts the panel by Yeganeh Rezaian.
Yeganeh Rezaian, Journalist and Senior Researcher at the committee to protect Journalists (CPJ) spoke about her experience of encountering the Morality police as a woman who lived in Iran and her arrest and transfers to the same detention center where Mahsa Amini had been taken to. She continues by reminding that many women in Iran have a similar experience and are repeatedly detained for their choice of clothing. She also pointed to the courage of the new generation in Iran and said that the new generation is fundamentally different from its previous generations and does not bow down to the police and the ruling class.
Ms. Rezaian, who as a journalist has a history of being imprisoned in Iran, emphasized the importance of keeping track of arrests and the role of journalists, by saying Journalists working in international media have many restrictions on traveling to Iran, preparing documents and news reports, and that is why they usually only refer to the reports prepared by journalists inside Iran – despite the many restrictions. This is in a situation where the arrest of Iranian journalists and the pressure on them has increased dramatically in recent days, and this issue has made providing information more challenging than before.
Furthermore, she raised concern about increasing arrests of journalists even local journalists in very small towns, she claimed at least half of journalists arrested in recent days have been women and asked the international community to increase the pressure on Iran for the suppression and arrests of journalists in Iran.
Senior Advocacy Coordinator at Human Rights Activists in Iran (HRA), Skylar Thompson, started her remarks by reporting on the alarming situation of women and human rights in Iran. While presenting a heat map of current protests, Thompson highlights that just in the first 10 days of protests, “protests are spanning 93 cities at least there are in 30 of 31 provinces, they are in 18 universities” she then continues by saying that these protests are not just in urban streets of Tehran, but they are spawning geographically, class, gender, and age wise.
Skylar Thompson presented statistics on the repression of protesters in recent days in Iran, stating according to HRA’s documentation received to this point the youngest person killed was a 16-year-old boy, and she added, A 10-year-old girl was also targeted in these protests. she was shot by the security forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran, but fortunately she survived, although she is in critical condition.
According to Thompson, the senior advocacy coordinator at HRA the situation of human rights has exacerbated during Raisi’s term. She mentioned the upward trends in executions, the return of public executions after two years, and the execution of minor offenders. She also mentioned the surge in inhumane retaliation sentences such as amputation of hands and blinding of eyes.
Mrs. Thompson further pointed to the actions that the international community is obliged to take, such as sanctioning the officials behind suppression, as well as sanctioning institutions that violate women’s rights in Iran, and said: “The fact that the American and Canadian governments have imposed sanctions on the Morality Police and some officials is a positive step, but we do not know who the Canadian government has specifically sanctioned. On the other hand, the silence of countries like England is questionable, and we still do not know the result of the decision and possible actions of the European Union.
In addition, in answer to a question raised by the audience, Mrs. Thompson addressed the difficult livelihood situation of workers and teachers in Iran. She pointed out that teachers had organized many protest rallies in recent months, which led to the arrest of more than 150 teachers’ union activists.
Senior Researcher MENA region at Article 19, Mahsa Alimardani, raised concerns regarding free flow of information due to the internet disruption and blocking of many online services in Iran during recent protests.
Alimardani, as an expert in the field of technology and communication, discussed the challenges of communication in Iran in the last eleven days and that the Islamic Republic has used new methods to limit access to the Internet. She discussed the difference between the communication restrictions in recent events and what happened in November 2019 and explained that even though this time the internet was not cut off completely like in November 2019 and some Iranians have been able to use the internet in recent days. She added that the disruptions are more strategic than before and at hours that protests usually increase after 4pm, outages and other disruptions increase.
Alimardani Also spoke about Satellite Internet (Namely Starlink) and called the lifting of U.S. sanctions in this regard a positive step. She also warned of the vast disinformation in this regard and even malwares and unsafe apps that have claimed by their downloads users in Iran can connect to Starlink.
Despite the existing challenges, Alimardani expressed hope about the possibility of using satellite internet but also warned that the excessive attention to Starlink in recent days has been a bit misleading and has caused attention to be taken away from the actions that can be taken, such as providing safe and secure VPNs for users in Iran.
Anthony Vance, director of public affairs of the Baha’is of the United States, was another speaker at the meeting who addressed the problems of the Baha’is in Iran and said that the pressure on the Baha’is of Iran has increased systematically in the government of Ibrahim Raisi, especially since June. Depriving Baha’is of education, destroying their homes and spreading hatred against the Baha’i community are only a few examples of the oppression that Vance mentioned.
At the end of the joint meeting of the group of human rights activists in Iran and the Atlantic Council, the Panelists Answered questions submitted by the audience.
On January 11, Baha’i citizen Saba Sefidi, resident of Tehran, was arrested after an appearance at Branch 2 of Evin Courthouse.
According to HRANA, the news agency of Human Rights Activists, the reason for Sefidi’s arrest and the charges against her are still unknown at the time of writing.
Regarding the prosecution and harassment of Baha’is by Iran’s regime, HRA Senior Advocacy Coordinator Skylar Thompson stated that HRA strongly condemned these discriminatory acts against religious minorities in Iran. She asked that the regime take action to ensure Iranian people, and particularly Baha’i citizens, are entitled to the freedom of religion and can perform religious acts freely.
According to unofficial sources, it is estimated that more than 300,000 Baha’is live in Iran, but the Iranian constitution recognizes only Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism. Because their faith is not considered legitimate by authorities, the rights of Baha’is in Iran have been systematically violated for years.
The deprivation of the freedom to practice their religion is a breach of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The United Nations covenant holds that every person has the right to freedom of religion, freedom of converting religion, as well as freedom of expression, individually or collectively; openly or secretly.
On Tuesday, November 23, security forces raided and searched Baha’i citizen Pedram Abhar’s house in Tehran. On November 21, security forces arrested Pedram Abhar at his father’s home in Shiraz.
According to HRANA, the news agency of Human Rights Activists, at the time of arrest, they also searched the house and confiscated several family belongings such as identity cards, passports, cell phones, pictures and books related to the Baha’i faith. While Baha’i citizen, Pedram Abahar is still in detention in an unidentified detention center, his house in Tehran was searched by security forces again on Tuesday.
“On Sunday morning, November 21, at 10 am., Mr. Abhar departed from Shiraz to Bushehr,” an informed source told HRANA. “While he was at a rest stop on the road, he was surrounded by three cars. They arrested and transferred him back to his parents’ home in Shiraz. About 13 security agents searched the house. Yesterday, his parents went to the courthouse to find out about their son. However, they did not get an answer. Finally, this morning, Mr. Abhar was allowed to make a short call to his parent.”
Regarding this report, HRA Senior Advocacy Coordinator Skylar Thompson stated that HRA strongly condemned these discriminatory acts against religious minorities in Iran. She asked that the regime take action to ensure Iranian people, and Bahai’s citizens in particular, are entitled to the freedom of religion and can perform their religious acts freely.
According to unofficial sources, it is estimated that more than 300,000 Baha’is live in Iran, but the Iranian constitution recognizes only Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism. Because their faith is not considered legitimate by authorities, the rights of Baha’is in Iran have been systematically violated for years.
This deprivation of the freedom to practice their religion is a breach of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The United Nations covenant holds that every person has the right to freedom of religion, freedom of converting religion, as well as freedom of expression, individually or collectively; openly or secretly.
The reason for Abhar’s arrest, the charges against him, the security institution responsible for the arrest, and the detainee’s whereabouts are all unknown as of this writing.
NOVEMBER 15, 2019: A sudden and substantial hike in the cost of fuel sparks unrest across Iran. Individuals across the country pour into the streets in what soon becomes mass protests covering a reported 104 cities across Iran.
As the anniversary of the November protests approaches, HRA has spoken with Iranians calling for concrete action against those responsible for violent crackdowns against protesters including arbitrary and incommunicado detention, illegal use of force, and torture among other serious violations. For nearly two years, perpetrators have, for the most part, enjoyed widespread impunity. Domestically, some have even seemingly been rewarded. Indeed, individuals such as now-President Ebrahim Raisi, a known and serious violator, have risen to top positions of power.
Soheila, a 45-year-old mother whose son was shot in the November 2019 protests, highlights the shortcomings of the judiciary in Iran, telling HRA, “I hope that accountability will mean that next time, my child, instead of taking to the streets, can work through established pathways to hold corrupt people accountable for their actions.”
November 2019 saw the deaths of several hundred Iranians (227 were verified by HRA) in what is arguably a state-sanctioned arbitrary deprivation of life. In addition over 7,100 were arbitrarily detained, some remain detained today. Although the violations noted above have been extensively documented, little has been done to hold perpetrators accountable.
Elika, 25, told HRA, “Without accountability for violations that occurred in November 2019, the cycle of repression and violence will not end. Those that intend to perpetrate future abuse [on us] need to see accountability. Maybe then they will take a moment to think before pulling the trigger.” In a recent post in the Atlantic Council IranSource blog, Skylar Thompson, HRA Senior Advocacy Coordinator, stated similarly, “Without concrete action to fight the plague of impunity that covers Iran, these violent events will only continue to occur and the Iranian people will continue to suffer.”
Iran has proven unwilling to investigate and prosecute those responsible through domestic judicial frameworks. This unwillingness is paired with the fact that Iran’s judiciary is in no way impartial and is in fact led by the very perpetrators responsible for the noted violations. Unfortunately, violations of fair trial standards have become status quo.
When asked what accountability looks like to him, Hafez, 22, told HRA, “They should handcuff the perpetrators. […]. They should be prosecuted in a public court and imprisoned.” He continued, “Once handcuffed, perpetrators should have to look the victim’s mother in the face to calm her heart.” Nazanin, 32, told HRA that accountability, in her view “is [the Islamic Republic] honestly and openly admitting wrongdoing.”
HRA has identified 54 individual and seven institutional violators connected to the November 2019 protests. It Is noteworthy that a number of those violators have also been complicit in numerous additional acts of repression against protesters including in 1988, 2020 (protests over the shooting down of Ukrainian airliner), 2021 (protests over resource mis-management in Khuzestan), and many instances in between. This repeated action is a direct consequence of the lack of accountability.
The following section lists notable individuals responsible for repeated serious and widespread rights violations. Extensive and credible documentation is readily available. HRA calls on the international community to hear the pleas of Iranians like Hafez, Nazanin, and Elika and utilize available documentation to take concrete action against those responsible.
*For a more in-depth look at the listed violators visit www.spreadingjustice.org or select a name and be directed to a violator profile that includes several data points including an overview of violations, employment history, as well as additional evidentiary documentation.
Mojtaba Raei Special Governor, Najafabad City of Isfahan Province Deputy Governor of Isfahan
On September 21st, a number of prominent human rights organizations, including HRA, Impact Iran, HURIDOCS, and the Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation , hosted a virtual discussion in the margins of the 48th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council on how online databases can help monitor human rights in Iran and support accountability efforts.
In an announcement of the event, Impact Iran stated, ”In recent years, human rights organizations have developed a range of online tools that have strengthened the capacities of rights defenders to advance evidence-based reporting and advocacy aimed at generating a culture of accountability and transparency in pursuit of the realization of human rights for all persons.”
United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran Dr. Javid Rehman delivered the event’s opening remarks, in which he highlighted the important work of the organizations represented by the panel. He mentioned Abdorrahman Boroumand Center’s OMID Memorial, the Spreading Justice’s Initiative by Human Rights Activists in Iran, and Impact Iran’s Iran Rights Index, which is a culmination of work by the Impact Iran Secretariat and coalition members including HRA.
“The individual characteristics of the different databases that are the topic of discussion today… all indicate that civil society organizations have clear goals in their well-coordinated documentation efforts,” Rehman stated. “Each of these databases serves a valuable goal for public information advocacy, memorialization, or support accountability mechanisms.”
In demonstrating how HRA’s Spreading Justice database can contribute to accountability efforts, panelist and HRA Senior Advocacy Coordinator Skylar Thompson outlined the functions and goals of the project.
“Spreading justice is a database of Iranian Human Rights violators, both individual and institutional violators,” Thompson said. “This database, which is available in both English and Farsi, currently contains over 250 profiles, ranging from Iranian president Ibraham Raisi himself to lesser known violators that continually commit heinous acts, and yet fly almost silently under the radar.”
On the functions of the database, Thompson said, “If an individual were doing research on an individual victim’s case, they could, for example, search Nazanin Ratcliffe and find all violators associated with her case.”
The profiles also include detailed legal reviews prepared by experts in international human rights law. HRA collects information from open source research, and through its wide network of volunteers inside Iran. Volunteers receive training aimed at strengthening organizational documentation capacity, which includes online security, diversity and inclusion, neutrality, informed consent.
“The information that is collected through this network is extremely important to our work,” Thompson said. “It also gives us unparalleled access to victims.”
On the use of the database, Thompson stated that there is a real need for governments to work alongside civil society, in their efforts to hold perpetrators accountable, and added that this was a core motivation behind the development of Spreading Justice.
She continued, “If we can begin to close the accountability gap in Iran, we will begin to see a disruption in the continuous cycle of abuse,” Thompson said. “The truth is that the international community has a number of tools available to hold perpetrators of serious human rights violations accountable, particularly when domestic judicial remedies are unavailable, such as is the case in Iran. The use of these tools is lacking.”