Citizen’s Rights and People’s Demands
Different analyses were presented following the protests in Iran against rising prices and social, economic problems. Many believe that the method for criticising the government must be done within the law, because violence protests and damaging public property results in the best of demands to be ignored, and rightful demands not be seen or heard.
Of course this explanation does not deny the right of the people to criticise and civil protests, and their acceptance is the duty of the government. In this regard many political activists believe that if political parties and union associations and NGOs can, as civil channels, have the opportunity to create better conditions for the accountability of governmental bodies towards people’s demands. NGOs can play the role of go-betweens between the people and government, and if this occurs people’s demands will continually and in an orderly manner be pursued and questioned from the government.
It seems that the Citizen’s Rights Charter can to an extent respond to the general discourse vacuum with regards to people’s demands. Of course the practicality of solutions presented in the Citizen’s Rights Charter depends only on the correct implementation of the contents of the Charter by all governmental bodies and departments.
For the realisation of this objective, in its recent programmes the government intends to open at least five national civil bodies nationwide and provincial levels for dealing with people’s demands. Also principles which have been stated in the Freedom of Publication and Access to Information, on the basis of the law referral can be done to departments and bodies and demand information and in the event these authorities refuse to cooperate, the criminalisation that the legislator has defined in article 22 of the Freedom of Information Act, everyone can refer to the public prosecutor and file a complaint.
Furthermore, In December 2016, the President decreed the Citizen’s Rights charter, so that through the use of legal capacities, the people can demand these rights. Following that, the National Administrative Supreme Council too on the recommendation of the National Administrative and Recruitment Organization ratified the “Citizen’s Rights in the Administrative System”, the aim of which is the improvement and promotion of citizen’s rights levels, the enjoyment of citizens from the created capacities and facilitation in the realisation of the objectives of the administrative system’s general policies.
The subject of citizen’s rights and a charter which was compiled in the same name in fact is one of the promises of President Hassan Rouhani, who ordered the preparation of its draft in his first 100 days in office. But its preparation took around three years and ultimately on 19 December 2016 it was finalised. It must be said that document is to be used for culture building in a ten year process and there is no rush or political view towards it.
The Citizen’s Rights Charter has been designed for the purpose of the “government’s programme and policy” which is the main subject of article 134 of the Constitution, and includes a set of citizen’s rights which are either recognised in the legal system resources of Iran and or the government makes serious attempts to identify, create, realise and implement them through the drafting and following up on legislations.
The Programmes that the Government is Pursuing can be Briefed in the Following:
• The principles of citizen’s rights in the administrative system have a source from the Citizen’s Rights Charter which include appropriate running of the country’s affairs on the basis of lawfulness, practicality, accountability, transparency, justice and fairness by all officials and workers in executive bodies.
• The observation of the law and conducting administrative affairs of the people based on the principle of neutrality and avoidance of any form of prejudgement, personal interest seeking or grudge, and the possibility of easy and non-discriminatory access of the citizens to competent authorities.
• The opportunity for citizens’ continued access to executive bodies managers and staff for answers and opportunity for citizens to get non-discriminatory benefit from the e-government and e-services advantages, training opportunities and the empowerment of users in the administrative system too are some of the other articles of the Citizen’s Rights Charter.
• Bring about the legal basis for citizens to benefit from suitable job opportunities and equal wages and benefits between men and women for the same wor and avoiding selective approaches.
• The right to enjoy human dignity and respectful treatment and unbiased application of laws and regulations and the right to be protected from discrimination in administrative systems, procedures and decisions.
• Right of easy and speedy access to administrative services and the right to protect and observe individual’s privacy and the right to timely being informed of administrative decisions and procedures and access to required information and the right to give free opinion and present recommendations on administrative decisions and procedures and on time and fair investigation of complaints and objections.
• According to this law administrative managers and officials must make their decisions on credible judgements and express the legal reasons and justifications for their decisions.
• The right to education, research, housing, security and employment are also important paragraphs of this Charter.
The Implementation of Citizen’s Rights
One of the fundamental pillars for the realisation of citizen’s rights, is the demands of the people. For as long as people do not know their citizen’s rights and do not demand them, then effective steps cannot be taken for the execution of these rights.
The director of the Administrative Health Affairs of the Administrative and Recruitment Affairs Organization in a sitting at the beginning of January in the Citizen’s Rights Conference said that for the observation of people’s rights in the administrative system, there must be public monitoring and the utilisation of NGOs must be developed. The government must have the prepare the necessary basis for the creation of effective activities of NGOs.
Also, towards the better implementation of citizen’s rights, government departments’ administrative offences investigation committees have been given the task to seriously investigate the violation of citizen’s rights within executive bodies. Furthermore, the President has asked his ministers to give him reports every six months and to the public once a year on how citizen’s rights is implemented.
For example, to this aim, by issuing a memorandum, the Economy Ministry called for all provincial economy and treasury affairs director generals to execute the following immediately and send regular weekly reports of actions and results achieved, as part of the realisation of the goals of the Islamic Republic of Iran and based on the contents of the Citizen’s Rights Charter:
1 ) Establish adequate interaction with the private sector, economic and NGO and union activists through holding “joint sittings” with the aim of transparency, determining problems, removal of obstacles and also presentation of mechanisms to solve problems related to the mandate of the Economy and Treasury Ministry in the capital and particularly provincial towns of the province.
2 ) Implementation regular meeting with the people programmes of the provincial directors of relevant ministries, for the purpose of meeting the people and listening to their problems, demands and recommendation in all fields of the ministry, be they regarding taxes, customs, banking, insurance etc.
For other executive mechanisms of citizen’s rights, the content of the Charter can be referred to:
1- The President shall appoint a Special Assistant for supervising, coordinating and pursuing appropriate implementation of the Government’s obligations under this Charter. The Special Assistant will be responsible for, amongst others, proposing plans and guidelines for the full implementation of the Charter on Citizens’ Rights.
2- Executive bodies under the Executive Branch, in coordination with the Special Assistant and within the scope of their legal competence and by attracting participation of the people, societies, non-governmental organizations and the private sector, and by summing up and codifying the laws and freedoms set forth in the Constitution and in statutes, shall take legal measures and actions required for realization of these rights, particularly by preparing and implementing a plan for reforming and developing the legal system; providing information to the public; embarking on capacity building; and by enhancing mutual understanding, dialogue and interaction in the public arena.
3- The bodies under the Executive Branch shall be required to prepare their plan for reforming and developing the legal system within six months from the date of the publication of this Charter and submit the same to the Special Assistant of the President, and shall present an annual report on their progress, challenges, barriers, and proposed solutions for the promotion and realization of citizens’ rights within the scope of their responsibility, and shall take measures for realization of the citizens’ rights set forth in this Charter through institutional and structural reforms.
4- Ministries of Education; Science, Research and Technology; and Health and Medical Education shall make necessary arrangements to best familiarize school and university students with citizens’ rights concepts.
5- The President reports to the people annually on the progress and approaches to overcome challenges for realization of citizens’ rights, and shall update the Charter as required.