The UN Human Rights Committee [official website] expressed concern [UN News Centre report] Friday over the protection of individuals' rights in Iran. The committee, composed of independent experts, has recently examined Iran's progress in adopting the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) [text]. Committee members expressed concern about the discrimination and arrest of religious minorities and homosexuals, as well as the frequent use of capital punishment in Iran. The committee's concerns follow a UN report [text, PDF] from last month that suggested human rights violations in Iran are on the rise [JURIST report]. The report cited an increase in persecutions among political opposition and journalists, the torture and mistreatment of detainees, the significant administration of the death penalty to people under 18 years of age and "exorbitant bail requirements" for human rights defenders and religious practitioners. Iran's deputy ambassador to the UN, Eshagh al-Habib, criticized the report [JURIST report] for being untrue and biased. Despite these accusations, committee member Michael O'Flaherty from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights [official website] said he was hopeful the investigation would have a positive impact on human rights conditions in Iran.
Iran has been heavily criticized for its alleged human rights abuses. Jailed Iranian journalist Isa Saharkhiz [Iran Press profile] in July urged [letter, DOC, in Persian] UN Special Rapporteur on Iran Ahmed Shaheed to investigate prison conditions in Iran [JURIST report]. In May, rights groups decried Iran's persecution of lawyers [JURIST report]. In January, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran claimed that Iran is on an "execution binge" [JURIST report], killing one prisoner every eight hours. In January, prominent Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh was sentenced to 11 years in prison [JURIST report]. Sotoudeh was found guilty of "acting against national security" and "making propaganda against the system" for which she will serve five and one years, respectively. She was the lawyer for Arash Rahmanipour, who was arrested for his role in the post-election protests on charges of moharebeh, or being an enemy of God. Rahmanipour was executed [JURIST report] in January 2010. Also in January, Iranian chief prosecutor Abbas Jafari-Dolatabadi delivered a speech at Tehran University indicating that he would prosecute opposition leaders [JURIST report] for political unrest that took place after the country's 2009 presidential election [JURIST news archive].