U.N. Expert Raps Iran on Women’s Rights, Executions
Reuters, February 8, 2005
By Robert Evans
GENEVA—A U.N. human rights
investigator on Tuesday criticized Iran over “arbitrary arrests, torture and
ill-treatment” of women and called on the Tehran authorities to abolish the
Yakin Erturk, a Turkish law professor, also urged Tehran
to adopt a national action plan to promote and protect human rights which
would emphasize the elimination of violence against women.
Although they had seen some advances, Iranian women still
face violence in and outside the home and are blocked from defending their
rights by discriminatory laws and an unfair justice system, Erturk said.
“Discriminatory laws and malfunction in the
administration of justice result in impunity for perpetrators and perpetuate
discrimination and violence against women,” she said.
Erturk issued her criticism in a preliminary report for
the world body’s Human Rights Commission—which holds its annual six-week
session in Geneva in March and April—following a government-approved visit
to the country.
She said she was “troubled by the widespread practice
of arrest for political opinion, including of female human rights defenders,
and for ‘moral offences’,” and by the failure of the judicial system to
enforce safeguards ensuring fair trials.
Erturk, the Commission’s expert on violence against
women, is due to make a full report to the 53-nation body, on which Iran
itself sits, at this year’s session. But the Commission has no mechanism to
enforce any decisions.
She said she had been encouraged to find that 62 percent
of young people in higher education in Iran were women, and noted that the
country’s judiciary had put a moratorium on stoning to death—a punishment
women accused of adultery face.
She had also seen an emerging civil society with active
female lawyers, journalists and academics “engaged in working to promote
human rights and prevent violence against women.”
But she said: “In the family, women face psychological,
sexual and physical violence” which existing laws did little to protect
against, while divorce and custody of children were difficult for abused wives
In the wider community, victims of rape face numerous
obstacles in accessing justice, she said. Women risk punishment for adultery
if they fail to prove rape, and can face death for killing a rapist in
To improve the situation, she said, the Iranian
authorities should make it a priority to bring the country’s laws and
practices into line with its own constitution and with international rights
pacts that it has signed.
They should also seek alternative punishments
“orientated toward prevention and rehabilitation rather than revenge, and in
this context abolish the death penalty” as well as reviewing the evidence
against all detainees sentenced to death.
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