Islamic Republic of Iran
Head of state Ayatollah Sayed ‘Ali Khamenei
Head of government Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (President)
The authorities maintained severe restrictions on freedoms of expression, association and assembly. Dissidents and human rights defenders, including minority rights and women's rights activists, were arbitrarily arrested, detained incommunicado, imprisoned after unfair trials and banned from travelling abroad. There were scores of prisoners of conscience and political prisoners. Torture and other ill-treatment were common and committed with impunity. Women, religious and ethnic minorities, and members of the LGBTI community were subject to discrimination in law and practice. The cruel judicial punishments of flogging and amputation continued to be used. Official sources acknowledged 314 executions, but a total of 544 were recorded. The true figure may be considerably higher.
Iran's nuclear programme continued to cause international tension. The UN, EU and some governments, including the USA, maintained and in some cases imposed additional sanctions, including travel bans on suspected human rights violators. Food insecurity and economic hardship grew.
Thousands of prospective candidates for parliamentary election in March were disqualified.
Also in March, the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur investigating human rights in Iran was renewed for one year. Both he and the UN Secretary-General issued reports identifying widespread human rights violations, including failure to adhere to the rule of law and impunity.
Amendments to the Penal Code passed by parliament in February continued to allow cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment, and punishments not based on codified law, and provided impunity in some circumstances for rape. They neither prohibited the death penalty for juvenile offenders nor executions by stoning. The amended Penal Code was not in force at the end of the year.
In December, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution urging the government to improve human rights in Iran.
Freedoms of expression, association and assembly
The authorities maintained tight restrictions on freedoms of expression, association and assembly. They took steps to create a controlled, national internet, routinely monitored telephone calls, blocked websites, jammed foreign broadcasts and took harsh action against those who spoke out. Media workers and bloggers were harassed and detained. Student activists and members of minority groups were imprisoned or harassed, with some barred from higher education. Scores of prisoners of conscience arrested in previous years remained in prison and more were sentenced to prison terms in 2012.
- Shiva Nazar Ahari, a journalist, human rights activist and member of the Committee of Human Rights Reporters, began serving a four-year prison term in September. In October, she and eight other women prisoners of conscience went on hunger strike in protest at their alleged abuse by guards at Tehran's Evin Prison.
- Abbas Khosravi Farsani, a student at Esfahan University, was arrested on 21 June for criticizing the authorities in a book and his blog, and forced to “confess” to charges including “acting against national security by publishing lies and causing public unease”, “insulting the Supreme Leader” and “membership of an opposition group with links to Israel”. He was released after 20 days but prevented from continuing his university studies. He was awaiting trial at the end of the year.
Dozens of independent trade unionists remained imprisoned for their peaceful trade union activities.