Iran's Disregard for International Law and Agreements

Any assessment of whether Iran should be trusted to abide by its commitments under the terms of a final nuclear agreement between the P5+1 and Iran must be informed by the regime’s previous behavior.

UANI has therefore compiled a comprehensive resource of Iran’s violations of its treaty obligations and multilateral agreements including disarmament and weapons destruction, human rights and governance.

The historical record demonstrates that Iran has failed to abide by the provisions and principles of multilateral treaties to which it is a party. This belies the regime’s assertions that Iran is a responsible state actor acting in accordance with international law.

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Iran is signatory to a number of United Nations statutes and international treaties that, as a participatory nation, it is obligated to uphold. Nonetheless, Iran has consistently violated these statutes and bylaws.

On Disarmament and Weapons of Mass Destruction:

Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT)

Date of Ratification: 3/5/1970

Commitments: The NPT seeks to “prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament.” Under the terms of the treaty, “Each non-nuclear-weapon State party to the Treaty undertakes to accept safeguards, as set forth in an agreement to be negotiated and concluded with the International Atomic Energy Association.”

Violations: For years, Iran has violated the terms of the NPT by illicitly developing its nuclear program without consulting the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). In response to heightened international pressure, Iran eventually declared parts of its nuclear program in 2003, although the announcement was shrouded in misinformation regarding past nuclear activities. Iran further blocked IAEA access to requested sites. Despite multiple UN Security Council Resolutions condemning Iran and levying sanctions, Tehran has continued on its path of non-compliance, failing to meet crucial, mutually-agreed deadlines with the IAEA.

Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and their Destruction

Date of Ratification: 11/3/1997

Commitments: To refrain from developing, acquiring and using nuclear weapons and to safely dispose of any and all existing chemical weaponry

Violations: Although Iran claims to have terminated its chemical weapons program after the Iran-Iraq War, U.S. intelligence maintains that Iran has since held onto its chemical agents and accelerated its program. In 2001, U.S. General Tommy Franks said that Iran remained the “holder of the largest chemical stockpile” in his area of responsibility. Today, Iran stands accused of aiding the Syrian regime in its development of chemical weapons, and arming Bashar al-Assad with chlorine bombs and rocket launchers that have been used to fire rockets with chemical agent warheads. Iran has staunchly supported the Assad regime in the face of its gross human rights violations and chemical weapons deployment.

On Diplomatic and Consular Relations:

Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations

Date of Ratification: 2/3/1965

Commitments: to maintain and respect the binding laws that govern diplomatic missions to a host country

Violations: The Iranian regime consolidated its power through flagrant violation of the Convention’s provisions during the 1979-1981 Iran Hostage crisis. During the crisis, the American embassy in Tehran was violently seized and 52 Americans were held hostage for 444 days. Since then, Iran has continued to flout the safeguards for international diplomacy set out in the Vienna Convention. In October 2011, an Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States was uncovered by American authorities. Only a month later, in November 2011, a regime-sponsored mob stormed the British embassy in Tehran.

On Terrorism:

International Convention Against the Taking of Hostages

Date of Accession: 11/20/2006

Commitments: To prohibit and punish the taking of hostages

Violations: The Iranian regime has a long history of hostage taking, beginning with the 1979 Iran Hostage Crisis and followed by the 1982-1992 Lebanon Hostage Crisis. Since 2007, Iran has imprisoned more than ten American citizens on trumped-up charges including Robert Levinson, who is now considered the longest held U.S. hostage in history. Levinson has not been publicly seen or heard from since his disappearance and reported abduction from Iran’s Kish Island.

On Human Rights:

The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination

Date of Ratification: 8/29/1968

Commitments: To eliminate racial discrimination in all its forms in the world, outlaw hate speech and criminalize racist organizations

Violations: The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has expressed concern over the rights of Arab, Azeri, Baloch and Kurdish communities, and notes that Iran’s controversial “gozinesh” laws infringe on the rights of these communities to access equal employment and participate in Iranian political life. In addition to domestic prejudice, the Iranian government also celebrates “Quds Day,” an annual national holiday in which rallies are held calling for hostilities against Israel and the liberation of Palestine. “Death to Israel” is a common chant at the rallies, often accompanied by “Death to America.” The rhetoric frequently slides into overt anti-Semitism, including characterizations of Zionism as a cosmic evil and statements denying the Holocaust.

International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights

Date of Ratification: 6/24/1975

Commitments: To ensure non-discrimination and equal rights for men and women in all economic, social and cultural spheres; to protect labor rights, the right to education, and adequate standards of living for all individuals

Violations: The right to unionize is not respected in Iran, and union activists like Reza Shahbi are currently serving years-long sentences. Iranians also face cultural repression with the attempted ban of traditional Persian celebrations. Women in Iran suffer from discrimination under Iran’s mandatory dress code, and men also have the power to prohibit their wives from entering employment. Virtually all Iranian minorities suffer from codified discrimination under Iran’s 1985 “gozinesh” laws, which call for allegiance to Iranian State religion in exchange for public sector employment rights. The Baha’i, who are subject to limited access to education, mass imprisonment, and systematic persecution, are one of the most persecuted minorities in Iran. This repression is ingrained in Iran’s Constitution, with Iranian leaders frequently inciting hatred against the Baha’i as government-led media continues to disseminate anti-Baha’i propaganda.

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

Date of Ratification: 6/24/1975

Commitments: To safeguard the civil and political rights of individuals, including the right to life, the right to freedom of speech, the right to freedom of assembly, electoral rights, and the right to due process and a fair trial

Violations: The rights to freedom of speech and assembly are virtually non-existent in Iran. The Iranian government violently repressed the wave of protests following President Ahmadinejad’s disputed re-election in 2009. Iran’s blasphemy law greatly infringes on the universal right to freedom of speech, with violators accused of “spreading corruption on Earth” often resulting in imprisonment or the death penalty. Reporters Without Borders has dubbed Iran “the biggest prison for journalists.” Iran also persists in violating citizen rights to due process of law, detaining citizens for extended, often indefinite, periods without fair trials. Although the treaty also prohibits cruel punishment and only allows for the death penalty in the most serious of cases, Iran continues to use flogging as a punishment, and makes extensive use of the death penalty for crimes such as drug trafficking and sodomy. Iran also continues to use the death penalty on minors.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child

Date of Ratification: 7/13/1994

Commitments: To protect the child from discrimination, to ensure the best interests for the child, the right to life, survival and development, to respect the views of the child

Violations: Although capital punishment is illegal under Article 37(a) of the treaty, Iran has executed more child offenders than any other country in the world, and continues to lead the world in child executions in 2014. Iran also continues to regularly execute citizens over 18 for crimes committed as minorsChildren of minority groups like the Baha’i suffer harassment from school authorities and Iranian textbooks explicitly discriminate against minorities. Under the Iranian Civil Code, if a mother wishes to retain custody of her child under joint-custody laws, she must refrain from remarriage, a clear obstacle to the child’s equal access custody rights under Article 9. Recent UNICEF statistics indicate that 11.4% of Iranian children are victims of underage labor. Although the convention requires safeguards to protect vulnerable refugee children under Article 22, Afghan refugee children are often forced to do manual labor while detained in Iran’s camps. According to Iranian law, the legal age of majority for children is puberty, enabling underage marriage for girls as young as 13, with girls in Iran’s rural areas coerced into marriage even earlier, an infringement of the child’s right to freedom from abuse.

Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography

Date of Accession: 9/26/2007

Commitments: To protect children from sale, prostitution and pornography

Violations: Iran today is an international crossroads for prostitution, with a sharp increase in child prostitution in the years leading up to accession. In the past, members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard have been implicated as leaders of a child prostitution ring. Today, child prostitution is considered grossly underreported, and girls are often prostituted under the guise of a short-term marriage. According to a 2011 State Department report on human trafficking, NGOs have discovered that Iranian “religious leaders and immigration officials are involved in the sale of young girls and boys between nine and 14 years old to men in Gulf States.”

Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict

Date of Signature: 9/21/2010

Commitments: To protect children from involvement in hostilities and conscription into armed forces

Violations: The Iranian regime has a disturbing history of exploiting children in armed conflicts, most notoriously in their use of children to clear landmines during the Iran-Iraq War. Often, such children were tied to one another to ensure they did not desert. Ayatollah Khamenei has recently extolled this kind of abuse, calling child martyrdom a symbol of great pride. Iran became signatory to this optional protocol in 2010, but according to a Child Soldiers International report from 2012, children continue to be employed in Iran’s army and paramilitary forces.

Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others

Date of Signature: 7/16/1953

Commitments: “The Parties to the present Convention agree to punish any person who, to gratify the passions of another: 1. Procures, entices or leads away, for purposes of prostitution, another person, even with the consent of that person; 2. Exploits the prostitution of another person even with the consent of that person.”

Violations: According to a 2012 U.S. State Department Report on human trafficking, Iran remains “a source, transit, and destination for men, women and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor.” Under the examined period between 2005 and 2012, Iran’s government made “no discernible efforts against human trafficking,” and “did not comply with the minimum standards for [its] elimination.” Iran acceded to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography in 2007, but Afghani and Azerbaijani refugee children in Iran are nonetheless forced into prostitution.

The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide

Date of Ratification: 8/14/1956

Commitments: To safeguard national, ethnic, racial and religious groups from the threat of genocide

Violations: One of the crimes listed under the treaty is “direct and public incitement to genocide,” which Iranian leaders have routinely and explicitly violated. Iranian leaders have openly called for genocide against the Israeli people by seeking to “wipe Israel off the map,” and supplemented their rhetoric with sponsorship of terrorist groups similarly committed to genocidal ends. Iran’s gross violations of the treaty constitute a crime against humanity under international law. Canadian MP Irwin Cotler has sought to indict President Ahmadinejad on charges of incitement to genocide.

On Governance:

United Nations Convention Against Corruption

Date of Ratification: 4/20/2009

Commitments: To “promote and strengthen measures to prevent and combat corruption more efficiently and effectively; to promote, facilitate and support international cooperation and technical assistance in the prevention of and fight against corruption; to promote integrity, accountability and proper management of public affairs and public property”

Violations: Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index has consistently placed Iran as one of the most corrupt countries in the world, dropping from 88th in the rankings in 2005 to 144th in 2014. High-ranking members of Iran’s government have also been publicly linked to cases of financial corruption as well as drug and prostitution rings.


Iran retains membership in a number of United Nations commissions, committees, programs and agencies despite an egregious history of undermining the groups’ values. Members of these commissions and specialized agencies are responsible for directing areas of concern and compiling recommendations for action. As a result, Iran’s membership obstructs the missions of these commissions and agencies while enabling Iran to deflect attention elsewhere.

On Disarmament and Weapons of Mass Destruction:

The International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA)

Member Since: 1958

Member of the Board of Governors: 2002-2003

Mission: To serve as the “global focal point for nuclear cooperation,… [develop] nuclear safety standards,… [and verify] through its inspection system that States comply with their commitments”

Iran’s Record: The Iranian regime has consistently obstructed the mission of IAEA by developing nuclear capabilities without reporting its actions. In 2002, Iran was elected to the governing board of the IAEA, the same year that Iranian dissidents exposed Iran’s clandestine nuclear program. Although Iran announced parts of its program the following year, it has continued to obstruct the mission of the IAEA, refusing to allow full transparency into its nuclear program. Iran has continued to undermine the goals of the IAEA with delayed and incomplete information regarding its program. To date, the IAEA is unable to conclude that Iran’s nuclear program is intended exclusively for peaceful purposes.

Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)

Member Since: 1997

Member of the Executive Council: 2014-2016

Mission: To prevent “chemistry from ever again being used for warfare, thereby strengthening international security”

Iran’s Record: Iran has been a member of the OCPW since ratifying the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1997. Although one of the OCPW’s primary goals is to provide “assistance and protection to States Parties against chemical threats,” Iran has aided the government of Syria as it employed chemical weapons against its own citizens, killing nearly 1,500 people.

The Conference on Disarmament (CD)

Membership Since: 1979

Mission: The Conference on Disarmament “primarily focuses its attention on the following issues: cessation of the nuclear arms race and nuclear disarmament; prevention of nuclear war… new types of weapons of mass destruction and new systems of such weapons including radiological weapons; comprehensive programme of disarmament and transparency in armaments”

Iran’s Record: Iran has consistently obstructed good faith international efforts to cooperate with Iran on in its nuclear program. Among other breaches of transparency and cooperation, Iran has repeatedly denied the International Atomic Energy Agency entry to its Parchin site, and missed crucial deadlines on international agreements regarding its nuclear program. Iran was elected to chair the Conference in 2013, a move vehemently protested by the U.S. mission to the United Nations in light of Iran’s flagrant violations of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and its status as the object of international sanctions. The United States and Canada elected to boycott the 2013 Conference under Iran’s leadership.

On Human Rights:

Commission on the Status of Women (CSW)

Membership: 2010-2014; 2015-2019

Mission: To “prepare recommendations and reports to the Council on promoting women’s rights in political, economic, civil, social, and educational fields”

Iran’s Record: Iran was elected to the Commission in 2010, a week after senior cleric Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi declared that women who wear revealing clothing are responsible for earthquakes. Iranian women are discriminated against in a number of legal areas, and forced to abide by a strict dress code in public. Among other injustices, women in Iran are not allowed to marry or obtain a passport without the approval of a male guardian, and their testimony in court is worth half that of a man’s. In the regime’s presidential elections, women have been prevented from running for the highest public office. Iran’s re-election to the Commission in 2014 came a month after the UN released a report strongly criticizing Iran for imprisoning women’s rights activists and for its continued, codified discrimination against women in all areas of civil and political life.

United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)

Membership (Executive Board): 2013-2016

Mission: To “advocate for the protection of children’s rights, to help meet their basic needs and to expand their opportunities to reach their full potential”

Iran’s Record: Iran sits on the executive board of UNICEF despite egregious infringements on the rights of children, and a history of reneging on its commitments as a party of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Iran also has an egregious history of child prostitution and abuse of children in armed conflicts, despite its accession to both optional protocols relating to these abuses. Although the Convention on the Rights of the Child forbids execution of minors under Article 37(a), Iran remains the leading executor of children.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

Member (Executive Board) Since: 1957

Mission: To “lead and co-ordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide”

Iran’s Record: Iran has a history of abusing the refugees in its country, particularly Iran’s large population of Afghan refugees who, despite invitation by the Iranian government after the 1979 revolution, fear deportation and are currently subject to “physical abuse, detention in unsanitary and inhumane conditions, forced payment for transportation and accommodation in deportation camps, forced labor, and forced separation of families.” Iran has undermined its responsibility to safeguard refugees within its borders, offering Afghan refugees $500 a month to fight alongside the Assad regime in Syria against rebel forces. Since the 1979 revolution, Iran itself has produced a steady stream of refugees, with nearly 30,000 refugee applicants filing for refugee status from the theocratic regime in 2013 alone. Despite retaining membership in the UNHCR, Iran has tracked and abused thousands of Iranian refuges who have left the country to escape persecution.

International Labour Organization (ILO)

Member Since: 6/28/1919

Mission: To “promot[e] social justice and internationally recognized human and labour rights, pursu[e] its founding mission that labour peace is essential to prosperity”

Iran’s Record: Although freedom of association is one of the founding principles of ILO, no such freedom exists in Iran, with union activists regularly beaten, arrested, jailed and imprisoned for legitimate activities. This state-sanctioned repression also contradicts the commitments Iran is party to under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations

Membership: 2015-2019

Mission: To determine which NGOs will be accredited for consultation status in the United Nations

Iran’s Record: Iran will join the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations in 2015. U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power has strongly condemned Iran’s membership given the government’s crackdown on civil society, including systematically limiting the activities of NGOs. Repressive regimes have a history of working to block the UN accreditation of NGOs they oppose.

On Crime:

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)

Mission: To lead “the fight against illicit drugs and international crime”

Iran’s Record: Iran is currently elected to the Commission on Narcotic Drugs and the Commission of Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, the two governing bodies of the UNODC. Although Iran issues pleas for extensive international aid to combat drug-trafficking in and on its borders, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps has been exposed as spearheading a global heroin drug network. Iranian proxy groups like Hezbollah actively benefit from close ties to Latin American drug cartels and worldwide drug-trafficking schemes. Iran executes hundreds of citizens each year for allegations of minor drug-related offenses, often under unfair trial conditions. Amnesty International has criticized the UNODC for failure to apply its human rights standards to Iran. Human Rights Watch advocated for the UNODC to defund Iran, noting that the assistance enables Iran to “prosecute alleged offenders based on unfair trials, and even apply the death sentence under the draconian drug laws of Iran’s revolutionary court.” Additionally, weapons provided to Iran to ostensibly combat drugs traffickers have instead been funneled to its terrorist allies in Afghanistan and Iraq, where they have been used to kill American and NATO troops. At the 2012 conference in Tehran, Iranian Vice President Mohammed Reza Rahimi notoriously said, “The Islamic Republic of Iran will pay for anybody who can research and find one single Zionist who is an addict. They do not exist. This is the proof of their involvement in drugs trade.”

On Governance and Development:

Commission on Population and Development (CPD)

Membership: 2015-2019

Mission: To assist the Council by advising on issues related to population and development

Iran’s Record: The Commission comes as a follow-up to the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), which prioritizes access to reproductive healthcare rights and family planning. Nonetheless, Iran passed legislation in 2014 banning the use of permanent contraception, as well as advertisement for birth control in its pursuit of population growth. In Iran, literacy rates have seen a marked drop in recent years, with one fourth of Iran’s population over 15 years currently unable to read or write (literacy trends are often incorporated into CPD reports).

The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO)

Membership Since: 8/9/1985

Mission: To “reduce poverty through inclusive and sustainable industrial development”
Iran’s Record: Iran has received monetary aid for UNIDO projects, including provision of technical advice and support for the regime-controlled Iranian petrochemical sector. Many UNIDO projects and project proposals cite the Industrial Development and Renovation Organization of Iran (IDRO) and its subsidiaries as partners. The U.S. and EU-sanctioned IDRO is a government body that controls entities involved in Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs and is dedicated to procuring foreign technology to further these illicit aims.

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

Membership (Executive Board): 2012-2015

Mission: To focus on helping countries build and share solutions in the areas of poverty reduction, democratic governance, crisis prevention and recovery, environment and energy for sustainable development

Iran’s Record: Iran routinely works at cross-purposes with UNDP goals, most notably in regards to the promotion of democratic governance, human rights and the empowerment of women (the UNDP overseas the UN Development Fund for Women). In 2009, Iran held the Chair of the UNDP Executive Board while simultaneously carrying out a bloody crackdown in the streets of Tehran against citizens protesting for their own democratic governance.

Specialized Technical Agencies:

International Telecommunication Union (ITU)

Member Since: 1/1/1869

Mission: To secure “the growth and sustained development of telecommunications and information networks, and to facilitate universal access so that people everywhere can participate in, and benefit from, the emerging information society and global economy.”

Iran’s Record: The Iranian government blocks millions of websites, including more than 50% of the world’s top websites such as Facebook and Twitter. The Iranian government also jams satellites to prevent foreign broadcasts from reaching the Iranian public and keeps Internet speeds artificially slow to curb internet use within Iran. These measures prevent its citizens from accessing emerging information and communicating freely, constituting blatant breaches of the International Telecommunication Union code.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO)

Membership Since: 3/17/1958

Mission: To ensure “the safety, security and environmental performance of international shipping”

Iran’s Record: Despite its membership in the IMO, Iran has circumvented international sanctions by pursuing the deceptive practice of renaming and re-domiciling ships, as well as dangerously shutting off ship transponders in violation of maritime law. Additionally, Iran has threatened to indiscriminately mine the straits of Hormuz, a waterway vital to international trade, and routinely smuggles weapons by sea to its allies in Syria, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.