A dialogue of the deaf: the Committee raises questions that Iran refuses to answer

Published on 28 Oct 2023, 01:02 PM

The Human Rights Committee reviewed Iran on 9 and 10 October 2023

Author: Bailey (Reuters)

On 9 and 10 October 2023, the Human Rights Committee reviewed the situation of human rights in Iran for the fourth time. The session was marked by the wide representation of Iranian civil society organizations and a numerous State delegation coming from Tehran. Among the various delegates, Mrs. Zohreh Elahian, a former member of the Parliament, caught the attention of the Committee for being under EU sanctions for her role during the repression of the Iranian demonstrations of 2022, as she supported the detention, torture and killing of many protesters.

Over the course of the review, the delegation received several questions regarding the rights of women, the respect of minorities, the use of torture and other methods of corporal punishment, as well as  the state of freedom of expression. In this sense, the concerns of civil society were rightly addressed by the members of the Committee.

Nevertheless, the most - if not all - issues raised were not answered by the Iranian delegation, impeding the possibility of a dialogue between the parts.

The session was also characterized by a poor live interpretation, which made the already complex review more difficult to follow.

More violence and repression against women and no structural changes: the aftermath of the Iranian protests

The wave of protests that followed Mahsa Amini’s death in September 2022 have triggered a widespread human rights violation  from the Iranian authorities. In a context where the rights of women were already in danger, the increase of State surveillance and its implacable actions to stop the revolts, have exacerbated the cases of violence against them.

In this regard, violence against women and girls, and the respect of their human rights, have been one of the major concerns of the session. For example, the members of the Committee raised questions regarding any measures aiming at combating  the harassment that women face for not wearing hijabs. The Iranian delegation, as it happened throughout the review, refrained from answering.

In addition, the Committee was also concerned with the discrimination of LGBTQI+ rights. Once again, the delegates refused to respond to the questions, as they considered that sexual orientation was not outlined and protected by the ICCPR.

Leaving the Committee in shock: Iran’s stance on corporal punishment

The systemic use of torture, corporal punishment and the use of death penalty were also major thematics addressed by the members of the Commitee. The Islamic Republic of Iran continues to be one of the world’s top executioners, a fact consistently underscored by civil society organizations. Moreover, the recent protests have intensified the use of torture as one of the means for extracting confessions, and corporal punishments as the way to punish protesters.

The response of the delegation in relation to their use of stoning, flogging and other practices of corporal punishment, left the members of the Committee shocked, as Iran didn’t consider them to be acts of torture. In addition, the delegation didn’t comment on the use of the death penalty.

Attacking the media, criminalizing data and repressing freedom of expression: a not so exceptional practice

Also in relation with the protests, the Human Rights Committee raised several questions regarding the use of digital surveillance and the criminalization of data as methods of repressing the freedom of expression of Iranians, especially in the case of human rights defenders.

The delegation of Iran stated that digital surveillance and restrictions to social media were temporal measures exceptionally applied for national security reasons. However, censorship and the criminalization of data have been usual practices in Iran for many years, according to the Freedom House findings.

The condemnation of Iranian minorities, an unresolved ongoing issue:

Civil society organizations also addressed with the Committee the adverse and hostile treatment of Iranian minorities such as the Kurds, the Bahai or the Balochis. The broad legal definitions of criminal acts such as “fight against corruption on earth” or “crime of enmity against God” have been instrumentally used by Iranian authorities to target and condemn such minorities.

The Iranian delegation, once again, did not reply to the questions regarding their numerous threatened minorities, and their instrumental use of some laws to target them.


As the title indicates, the fourth review of the Islamic Republic of Iran was marked by the refusal of the delegation to address the issues raised. Most substantive questions were not answered, a fact that was acknowledged by the Committee members at the end of the session.

Watch again the dialogue with the Committee here (part one) and here (part two). Find the list of issues from the review here.

Recommendations of the Human Rights Committee

Concluding Observations on Iran's fourth periodic report were released on November 3, 2023. The State party is requested to provide, by 3 November 2026, information on the implementation of the following  recommendations:

Violence against women, including domestic violence

The State party should:

  • (a) Adopt a comprehensive law criminalizing all forms of violence against women and girls that explicitly addresses domestic violence, marital rape and crimes committed in the name of so-called “honour” and introduce legislation that protect women and girls from any form of violence;
  • (b) Amend or repeal laws and policies that criminalize the non-compliance with compulsory veiling, in particular the “Bill to Support the Family by Promoting the Culture of Chastity and Hijab”; and disband the morality police;
  • (c) Ensure that all cases of violence against women, including domestic violence, are thoroughly investigated, that perpetrators are prosecuted, and, if convicted, punished in accordance with human rights standards, and that victims have access to remedies and means of protection; and
  • (d) Conduct awareness-raising campaigns regarding violence against women and girls, and about the criminal nature of such acts, and ensure that police officers, prosecutors and judges receive appropriate training.

Death penalty

Taking into account the Committee’s general comment No. 36 (2018), the State party should take all measures necessary to ensure that the death penalty is imposed only for the most serious crimes, involving intentional killing. The State party should also:

  • (a) Ensure that the death penalty is never imposed in violation of the Covenant, including in violation of fair trial procedures and of the principle of legal certainty in the definition of criminal offences; that legal assistance is always made available, and that evidence obtained under duress and torture is inadmissible in court; and that the family and attorney of the convicted person are kept informed;
  • (b) Ensure that no person who was below the age of 18 years at the time of the commission of an offence is subjected to death penalty under any circumstance;
  • (c) Give due consideration to establishing a moratorium on the death penalty with a view to abolishing it and consider acceding to the Second Optional Protocol to the Covenant; and
  • (d) Collect and make publicly available disaggregated data on the number of death sentences imposed, gender and age of the defendants, the number of executions carried out, pardons and commutations requested and granted and the type of offences for which death sentences are imposed.

Excessive use of force

The State party should:

  • (a) Ensure that provisions governing the use of force are in line with the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials; the United Nations Human Rights Guidance on Less-Lethal Weapons in Law Enforcement, and the Committee’s general comment No. 36 (2018), which requires that the use of lethal force by law enforcement be resorted to only when strictly necessary in order to protect life or prevent serious injury from an imminent threat; and provide training based on these principles and guidelines; and
  • (b) Investigate thoroughly, independently and impartially all allegations of excessive use of force and ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice, those responsible punished in accordance with human rights standards, and the victims receive reparation; and
  • (c) Ensure an impartial, independent, prompt and transparent investigation into the death of Jina Mahsa Amini.


Here you can find all the recommendations given by the Committee in the Concluding Observations.

The follow-up report of Iran on the implementation of the recommendations is due in 2026. The next list of issues will be adopted in 2029, and the next periodic report is due in 2030.


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