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Rouhani visits France: HRW calls Paris to discuss human rights concerns with Iran's president

BEIRUT |, with agencies - January 28, 2016, 08h28

Human Rights Watch called President François Hollande and President Hassan Rouhani to raise major human rights concerns in both countries during Rouhani's visit to Paris on January 27 and 28, 2016.

"An agenda of important political and economic issues should not prevent both presidents from raising their concerns. In Iran, these include the death penalty, the abuse of rights of women and minorities, violations of freedom of expression, and the detention of activists and political prisoners. In France, the state of emergency declared by President Hollande extends police powers in ways that threaten to interfere with rights to liberty, privacy, and freedoms of movement, association, and expression."

“Iran should release all those jailed simply for exercising their right to freedom of expression or assembly, while France needs to ensure that it uses its sweeping powers in the narrowest possible way for the shortest possible time,” said Bénédicte Jeannerod, France director at Human Rights Watch. “Talks on Syria and economic cooperation between Iran and France need to also include a frank discussion of human rights.”

For several years, Iran has had one of the highest rates of executions in the world. Iran applies the death penalty for offenses that do not constitute internationally recognized “most serious crimes,” including nonviolent drug offenses. In many cases, the death penalty has been imposed after judicial proceedings that did not comply with international fair trial standards, some on the basis of coerced confessions.

Women are subject to systemic discrimination in various ways, including in access to employment or in legally regulated matters regarding marriage, divorce, child custody, and inheritance. As documented by Human Rights Watch’s #Watch4Women campaign, women are even banned from stadiums hosting competitions such as men’s volleyball tournaments.

Violations of freedom of expression remain pervasive, with regular arrests of journalists and bloggers and prosecution of Internet-related crimes by security forces and revolutionary courts. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Iran is one of the countries with the largest number of jailed journalists in the world.

In a press release, HRW urged President Holland to call in particular for the following steps:

- Free imprisoned journalists, human rights defenders, activists, and other individuals who were convicted in Iran after unfair trials;
-End discriminatory practices against women, including by amending legislation to advance women’s rights;
-Amend laws that permit the execution of people convicted of offenses that do not meet the “most serious crimes” standard, in particular drug offenders; and
-Suspend all executions of prisoners who have been sentenced to death, often after unfair trials.

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