Religious minorities subject to cruel treatment, U.N. expert says

March 26, 2012

GENEVA

Religious minorities imprisoned for their beliefs have been subject to torture and other cruel treatment in Iran, Afghanistan, China, Egypt among other countries, according to a report by the U.N. independent expert on torture.

“We receive many complaints where the underlying factor is religious persecution,” Juan Mendez, the U.N. special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, told reporters here on March 7.

Mendez said that some complaints also involve people being subjected to cruel forms of punishment for apostasy, or abandonment of a religion.

In Iran, the government has not responded to an urgent appeal letter sent on Feb. 22, 2011 which referred to allegations of arrest, detention, and torture of members of religious minorities, in particular those belonging to the Christian and Baha’i faiths, Mendez noted in the report.

Mendez said he is particularly concerned about allegations that two of 15 Christians arrested by state security and intelligence forces on July 8, 2010 in Mashad were subjected to torture. Reza Estifan and Ehsan Behrouz reportedly refused to sign documents renouncing their faith and Christian activities.

The report, presented to the U.N. Human Rights Council, includes details on 250 requests sent to 59 countries between Dec. 1 and Nov. 30, 2011 and nine responses received up to the end of January 2012.

The government of Afghanistan has also not responded, Mendez reported, to an inquiry on alleged detention and ill-treatment of two Christian converts, “including the assertion that Mr. X was subjected to sleep deprivation, sexual abuse and beatings by prison staff and three other detainees.”

Similarly, the Indonesian government has not responded to an urgent request sent in February 2011 to a communication concerning allegation of attacks of members of the Ahmadiyya community, an Islamic religious revivalist group.

The U.N. expert reported he had also not received any reply from China concerning an inquiry seeking information on the alleged arbitrary arrest, torture, and harassment of Fan Yafeng, a Christian human rights lawyer.

Mendez also said he regretted that Egypt had not responded to a communication about the alleged ill-treatment of Ahmad Sayed Mohammad Sayed, a Coptic Christian, in detention.

He also reported he had received no reply, to date, from the government of Nigeria to a communication that referred to allegations of torture and killing of children suspected of witchcraft in Akwa Ibom State.

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