These restrictions are reiterated in the revised version of the Islamic Penal Code,7 adopted in
2013. For instance, those participating in peaceful unauthorized assemblies can be sentenced to
prison terms on the charges of “gathering and colluding to commit crimes against national
security” (Article 610 of the Islamic Penal Code),8 “forming a group composed of more than two
people with the purpose of disrupting national security” (Article 498) 9 and/or “membership of a
group with the purpose of disrupting national security” (Article 499). Other criminal charges
include “spreading propaganda against the system”, 10 conspiracy against the State,11
encouragement to “violate public morals”12 as well as satire.13 Similar vaguely worded
provisions criminalize acts such as swearing at14 or insulting15 “the Great Prophet of Islam” as
well as “sowing corruption on earth”16 with the death penalty.
The UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders (HRDs), adopted by consensus by the UN
General Assembly in 1998, recognizes the role of HRDs in the advancement of human rights and
requires specific measures for their protection due to their exposure to additional and specific
risks. While the Declaration is not a binding document, it articulates existing international human
rights in a context applicable to the work of HRDs. Notably, the Declaration reiterates the State’s
duty to protect the rights to freedom of expression,17 assembly18 and association19 for all, and
specifically calls on States to guarantee these rights as they are crucial for any type of human
rights work.20
All the aforementioned restrictions fail to meet requirements of international standards, including
the principles of legality and requirements that limitations of rights must be necessary,
proportionate and in pursuit of one of a limited number of narrowly-drawn legitimate aims.21
Consequently, the current Iranian legal framework grants authorities’ significant discretion to
impose overbroad and vague restrictions on individuals’ rights in contravention of the Iran’s
international human rights obligations. As freedom of expression, assembly and association are
central to the work of HRDs, they are particularly exposed to State restriction and repression.
7

The Islamic Penal Code available at: http://rc.majlis.ir/fa/law/print_version/845048
The new Islamic Penal Code was introduced in 2013 for an experimental period of five years and was revised in 2016. See the
most updated version of the Islamic Penal Code here on the website of the Iranian parliament:
http://rc.majlis.ir/fa/law/print_version/845048
9
Article 498 Islamic Penal Code 2013, https://iranhrdc.org/islamic-penal-code-of-the-islamic-republic-of-iran-book-five/
10
Article 500 Islamic Penal Code 2013, https://iranhrdc.org/islamic-penal-code-of-the-islamic-republic-of-iran-book-five/
11
Article 610 Islamic Penal Code 2013, https://iranhrdc.org/islamic-penal-code-of-the-islamic-republic-of-iran-book-five/
12
Article 639 Islamic Penal Code 2013, https://iranhrdc.org/islamic-penal-code-of-the-islamic-republic-of-iran-book-five/
13
Article 700 Islamic Penal Code 2013, https://iranhrdc.org/islamic-penal-code-of-the-islamic-republic-of-iran-book-five/
14
Article 262 Islamic Penal Code 2013, https://iranhrdc.org/english-translation-of-books-i-ii-of-the-new-islamic-penal-code/
15
Article 513 Islamic Penal Code 2013, https://iranhrdc.org/islamic-penal-code-of-the-islamic-republic-of-iran-book-five/
16
Article 286 Islamic Penal Code 2013.
17
Article 19, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
18
Article 21, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
19
Article 22, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
20
OHCHR, https://www.ohchr.org/en/issues/srhrdefenders/pages/declaration.aspx
21
Article 19, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
8

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