The Islamic Republic of Iran is a theocratic republic with a political system based on concepts found in Shia Islam. While mechanisms for popular election existed within the structure of the state, the supreme leader held significant influence over the legislative and executive branches of government through unelected councils under his authority and held constitutional authority over the judiciary, the government-run media, and the armed forces. The supreme leader also indirectly controlled the internal security forces and other key institutions. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.
The most significant human rights problems during 2016 were severe restrictions on civil liberties, including the freedoms of assembly, association, speech, religion, and press. Other significant human rights issues included the abuse of due process combined with use of capital punishment for crimes that do not meet the requirements of due process, as well as cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; and disregard for the physical integrity of persons, whom authorities arbitrarily and unlawfully detained, tortured, or killed.
Additional problems included politically motivated violence and repression; disappearances; limitations on citizens’ ability to choose their government peacefully through free and fair elections. Of additional concern were harsh and life-threatening conditions in detention facilities, including lengthy solitary confinement, with instances of deaths in custody. Also of concern were arbitrary arrest and lengthy pretrial detention, sometimes incommunicado; continued impunity of the security forces; denial of fair public trial; the lack of an independent judiciary; arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home, and correspondence. Additionally there were severe restrictions on academic freedom; restrictions on freedom of movement; official corruption and lack of government transparency; constraints on investigations by international and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) into alleged violations of human rights; legal and societal discrimination. There was also violence against women, ethnic and religious minorities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons. Lastly, there were significant problems with trafficking in persons and severe restrictions on the exercise of labor rights.
The government took few steps to investigate, prosecute, punish, or otherwise hold accountable officials, in the security services or elsewhere in government, who committed these abuses. Impunity remained pervasive throughout all levels of the government and security forces.