(Geneva, October 17, 2011) The United Nations Human Rights Committee ("the Committee") will this week, review of the Government of Iran’s compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) and the Iranian Queer Organization (IRQO) have issued a joint shadow report for their consideration entitled: Human Rights Violations on the Basis of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Homosexuality in the Islamic Republic of Iran. The report highlights widespread and systematic human rights violations experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people; men who have sex with men (MSM); and women who have sex with women (WSW) in Iran as well as those accused of homosexual acts without evidence. On October 17 and 18, the Committee is scheduled to review Iran’s adherence to the ICCPR. For the first time in 18 years the Government of Iran, which ratified the treaty in 1975, has submitted a state report and is being review by the UN body.
"Iran is one of the few countries in the world where homosexual intercourse is punishable by death, and many individuals face persecution, discrimination, or violence because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. It is unconscionable" — Iranian Queer Organization
"The UN Human Rights Committee review of Iran is an historic opportunity for that government to hear from independent international experts that the arbitrary arrest, torture and state murder of people for alleged homosexual acts constitute grave violations of the treaty it has committed itself to uphold." — Jessica Stern, International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission
Violations identified, Recommendations offered Human Rights Violations on the Basis of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Homosexuality in the Islamic Republic of Iran, documents how the Iranian authorities systematically violate the fundamental rights of Iranians who engage in homosexual acts, are perceived to engage in homosexual acts, and/or who become targeted for unrelated reasons based on opinion or belief. Such violations are in defiance of the country’s commitment, under the ICPPR, to protect and promote the rights of all citizens in areas such as the equal rights of men and women, right to life, prohibition of torture, right to a fair trail, freedom of expression, and freedom of assembly and association. The report provides twenty-two recommendations to improve the situation of LGBT Iranians, MSM and WSW. The report demonstrates that the human rights violations experienced by these groups are consistent with the failure of the rule of law and fundamental treaty obligations.
- The Penal Code of the Islamic Republic of Iran criminalizes all homosexual acts and actively punishes certain homosexual acts with death.
- Individuals perceived to have committed homosexual acts are subjected to arbitrary arrest, torture in state custody, and denial of the right to a fair trial.
- Iranian authorities at the highest levels have repeatedly issued homophobic statements that amount to incitement to discrimination and violence.
- Abolish the death penalty for homosexual acts.
- Decriminalize consensual sexual acts between individuals of the same sex.
- End the spread of hateful and derogatory propaganda against LGBT people, MSM and WSW by Iranian authorities.
- Guarantee LGBT individuals and groups equal rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression.
The Iranian Response
The Iranian government submitted a 213-page state report to the Committee in October 2009. Subsequently the Committee issued the List of Issues, 34 questions regarding the report. Question 5 of the List of Issues was specifically about LGBT rights. Other questions referenced related issues such as policing of sexuality and morality. In September 2011, the Government of Iran submitted its written response to the List of Issues.
The Iranian authorities refused to address LGBT rights in Iran, arguing that LGBT rights are "beyond the mandate and subject matter of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights." In fact, the Committee has repeatedly addressed LGBT rights since at least 1994 in its landmark decision in Toonen v. Australia.
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) is an international treaty that outlines a set of fundamental rights guaranteed to all individuals regardless of race, color, sex, language, religion, opinion, nation, property, birth or other status. The ICCPR was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1966 and entered into force in 1976. So far, 166 states, including the Islamic Republic of Iran, are parties to the Covenant. The Human Rights Committee is responsible for monitoring the implementation of the treaty by States Parties. Additionally, the 18-member committee also has the authority to interpret the treaty through issuing general comments.
The ICCPR requires all state parties to submit periodic reports about the implementation of the treaty’s principles. Based on the state reports and information gathered by Committee experts, the Committee will develop a list of questions (List of Issues) regarding the status of civil and political rights in that country. State Parties often provide written response to those questions ahead of the official review session of the state’s compliance with the ICCPR.
The Committee accepts reports from civil society groups regarding the human rights situation in that country. These reports submitted by NGO are known as shadow reports.
Based on the State report, the State written answer to the List of Issues, the shadow reports, the State presentation to the Committee, and the interactive dialogue between State and Committee, the Committee will conclude its review of the State’s compliance with its treaty obligations with a list of concerns and recommendations for the State in a Concluding Observations document. The State will formally acknowledge which of the Committee recommendations and concerns it will abide by.
The Committee recommendations and the State response are powerful tools for domestic advocates seeking to advance human rights and governmental accountability.