[JURIST] A UN human rights expert on Thursday called on Iran [report, DOC] to revoke laws restricting freedom of press, free detained journalists, and stop blocking websites. Ahmed Shaheed [official website], the UN Special Rapporteur on Iran, said that President Hassan Rouhani [Guardian news archive] has not kept the promise he made after his 2013 election to create a freer society in Iran, although Rouhani claims that changes are coming despite strong opposition from security companies and the judiciary. Shaheed also noted that approximately 753 people were executed in 2014, half drug related, the highest total since 2002. He urged Iran to revoke laws allowing capital punishment for drug offenders and juveniles, as well as enacting fairer trial practices. “High priority should be placed on amending laws and policies that undermine or violate internationally recognized rights and standards,” Shaheed said [Reuters report]. “[Laws that] restrict the press, criminalise expression, limit access to information and give rise to the ongoing arrests of civil society actors and members of vulnerable groups, including religious and ethnic minorities, [should be rescinded].”
Iran has faced criticism in recent years for its increasingly restrictive national internet policies that opponents claim are being implemented to silence popular dissent. In July of last year an Iranian court sentenced [JURIST report] eight Facebook page administrators to jail for terms between eight and 21 years. The defendants were convicted of plotting against national security, spreading propaganda against the ruling system and insulting officials, though the Facebook pages in question are unknown. In May a judge in the southern Iranian province of Fars ordered [JURIST report] Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg to appear in court regarding complaints that his company’s Instagram and Whatsapp applications have violated individuals’ privacy. In April Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh was summoned to court [JURIST report] after posting a video online voicing support for the country’s “prisoners of conscience.” In January 2012 the daughter of former Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani was sentenced [JURIST report] to six months in prison after being convicted of spreading propaganda against the country’s current government.