The Iranian state continued to violate human rights during 2017. The UK government's main concerns continued to be over frequent use of the death penalty, the right of women to fully participate in society, detentions of dual-nationals (covered in more detail in the consular section of this report) and violations of the right to freedom of expression and of the right to freedom of religion or belief. However, there were also some positive developments. The presidential election in May passed without major incident (although all women who registered as candidates were disqualified by the Guardian Council), and, towards the end of the year, a new anti-narcotics law was passed, which could have a major impact in reducing the frequency of application and use of the death penalty in relation to drug offences.

Not all executions in Iran are made public, so it is difficult to provide an exact figure for them, but NGOs' estimates suggest that there were between 450 and 500 executions in Iran in 2017. This is slightly lower than the figure for 2016, but still means that Iran ranks as one of the most prolific users of the death penalty in the world. This figure includes 24 public executions, a practice which usually involves death by hanging in a public square, and three executions of juvenile offenders, who were under 18 at the time of their arrests. Execution of juvenile offenders violates both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, both of which Iran has ratified.

It was estimated that at least 180 of the executions in 2017 were for drug-related crimes. In October 2017, the Iranian parliament ratified a new anti-narcotics law which does not provide for the use of capital punishment for the majority of drugs offences. This law could potentially reduce the number of people sentenced to death in Iran. It will apply retrospectively, which means it could affect as many as 5,000 prisoners on death row. The death penalty will still apply to the production and distribution of over 50kg of opium, 2kg of heroin and 3kg of methamphetamine, as well as for armed smugglers, ringleaders and financiers.

This positive news was tempered by the Iranian authorities' response to the protests in Iran at the end of 2017, and in particular by reports of deaths in custody, including from torture, of those detained for participating. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, issued a statement in January 2018 stressing that peaceful protests must not be criminalised and highlighted reports that more than 20 people, including an eleven-year-old boy, had died and hundreds had been arrested during the protests.

There were also wider issues with freedom of expression in Iran. The Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Iran, the late Asma Jahangir, reported that, as of June, there were at least twelve journalists as well as fourteen bloggers and social media activists in detention. Dissent was not widely tolerated and the government exerted some form of control over the majority of newspapers, TV and radio stations. Restrictions were also in place on the use of the internet. During the protests, and just before the Presidential elections in April, the authorities clamped down on the use of social media and, in some places, restricted all access to the internet.

The Iranian authorities continued to violate the right to freedom of religion or belief and discriminate against ethnic minorities. Many members of religious minorities faced restrictions and discrimination for peacefully manifesting their beliefs. Members of the Baha'i faith were once again subject to persecution. In the spring, following the murder of Farhang Amiri, his murderers received reduced sentences because their victim was a Baha'i. The authorities continued to pursue economic persecution of Baha'is, for example through shop closures, and by the denial of mainstream education to followers of the Baha'i faith.

In many areas across Iran women do not enjoy the same rights and privileges as men and continue to face discrimination. This ranges from mandatory wearing of the hijab, unequal rights in marriage, divorce and child custody to being unable to attend sporting events. At the end of 2017 there were protests against compulsory wearing of the hijab resulting in the arrest and imprisonment of several women.

Despite constitutional recognition, Christians were also increasingly harassed in Iran. In June, recent converts to Christianity, Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, Mohammad Reza Omidi, Mohammad Ali Mosayebzadeh, and Zaman Fadaii, were sentenced to ten years in prison. The charges against them included hosting house churches, unlawful gathering, propaganda against the regime, and violating national security by promoting Christianity. There were also several reports of Catholic property being confiscated during 2017, in particular buildings belonging to the Latin Catholic Church.

Primary school enrolment rates in Iran exceed 99% for both boys and girls. However, around 20% of adult women are illiterate, compared with around 10% of men[37].

In 2018, we will continue to hold Iran to account for its human rights record. We will support human rights resolutions on Iran at the UN General Assembly and the UN Human Rights Council, as we did in 2017 as co-sponsors, and will continue to support the position of the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Iran. We will also work with EU partners on the EU/Iran human rights dialogue and aim to establish our own regular bilateral dialogue with Iran on human rights issues.



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