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BRIEFING NOTES: (1) Iran; (2) Sudan

Spokespeople for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Jeremy Laurence (briefing from Geneva); Seif Magango (briefing from Nairobi)

Date: 26 April 2024

Subject: (1) Iran - Jeremy Laurence

(2) Sudan - Seif Magango

(1) Iran

We have received information that uniformed and plainclothes police in Iran are enforcing a violent crackdown throughout the country against women and girls under the country’s strict hijab laws – as well as men supporting them. We have received reports of widespread arrests and harassment of women and girls - many between the ages of 15 and 17.

On 21 April, the Tehran head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) announced the creation of a new body to enforce existing mandatory hijab laws, adding that IRGC members have been trained to do so “in a more serious manner” in public spaces. Reports indicate that hundreds of businesses have been forcibly closed for not enforcing compulsory hijab laws, and surveillance cameras are being used to identify women drivers not complying with the laws.

Our Office is also very concerned that a draft bill on "Supporting the Family by Promoting the Culture of Chastity and Hijab" – which imposes even stricter punishments– is nearing final approval by the Guardian Council.

While the latest draft of the bill has not been made public, an earlier version stipulates that those found guilty of violating the mandatory dress code could face up to 10 years’ imprisonment, flogging, and fines. Corporal punishment constitutes a form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and any detention, imposed for the exercise of fundamental freedoms, is arbitrary under international law. We reiterate that this bill must be shelved.

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UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk calls on the Iranian Government to eliminate all forms of gender-based discrimination and violence, including through the revision and the repeal of harmful laws, policies and practices, in line with international human rights norms and standards.

This week, we also received reports that the Isfahan Revolution Court sentenced to death rapper, Toomaj Salehi. He was convicted and sentenced for “corruption on earth” over views he expressed in the context of nationwide protests in 2022 following the death of Jina Mahsa Amini. Mahsa Amini had fallen into a coma in police custody, after being detained by the morality police for not wearing a headscarf properly.

The High Commissioner urges the authorities to overturn Toomaj Salehi’s sentence, and calls for his immediate and unconditional release. All individuals imprisoned for exercising their freedom of opinion and expression, including artistic expression, must be released.

Nine men have already been executed in connection with the 2022 protests.

The High Commissioner urges the Iranian Government to immediately halt the application of the death penalty and establish a moratorium on its use. Until then, the death penalty may only be imposed for the “most serious” crimes, which refers to crimes of extreme gravity that result intentionally and directly in death.

(2) Sudan

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk is gravely concerned by the escalating violence in and around El-Fasher city, North Darfur, where dozens of people have been killed in the past two weeks as hostilities between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) have intensified. Reports indicate that both parties have launched indiscriminate attacks using explosive weapons with wide-area effects, such as mortar shells and rockets fired from fighter jets, in residential districts.

At least 43 people, among them women and children, were killed as fighting was taking place between the SAF and RSF – backed by their respective allied militia – since 14 April, when the RSF began its push into El-Fasher.

Civilians are trapped in the city, the only one in Darfur still in the hands of the SAF, afraid of being killed should they attempt to flee. This dire situation is compounded by a severe shortage of essential supplies as deliveries of commercial goods and humanitarian aid have been heavily constrained by the fighting, and delivery trucks are unable to freely transit through RSF-controlled territory.

Since early April, the RSF has conducted several large-scale attacks on the villages in western El-Fasher mostly inhabited by the African Zaghawa ethnic community. RSF has burned down some of the villages, including Durma, Umoshosh, Sarafaya, and Ozbani. Such attacks raise the spectre of further ethnically motivated violence in Darfur, including mass killings. Last year fighting and attacks between the Rizeigat and the African Masalit in West Darfur left hundreds of civilians dead or injured, and thousands displaced from their homes.

The High Commissioner calls for an immediate de-escalation of this catastrophic situation, and an end to the conflict that has ravaged the country for more than a year now. He also calls for an investigation into all alleged violations and abuses of international human rights law and international humanitarian law with a view to ensuring accountability and victims’ rights to truth, justice and reparations. He urges both parties to the conflict and their allies to grant civilians safe passage to other areas, ensure the protection of civilians and civilian objects, and facilitate safe and unhindered humanitarian access.

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