Iran's human rights record faces U.N. test
GENEVA (WJC)—The UN Human Rights Council has begun discussions about Iran’s controversial record on human rights. A review was underway on Monday as part of a UN mechanism intended to hold all member states accountable on a range of human rights issues. Review and debate by the 47 countries that are members of the Geneva-based council are to include submissions from individual countries and human rights agencies.
In a report to the council, Iran said that criticism of its human rights record was politically motivated. “The Iranian society is a successful model of brotherly and peaceful coexistence,” it claimed. “Iran’s human rights situation has consistently been used as a political tool to apply pressure and to advance certain ulterior political motives of specific Western countries.”
All UN member states must submit to a review of their record every four years under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process. The Human Rights Council only has the power to draw up recommendations. China and Russia were due to take part in Monday’s debate. On Friday, Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi urged the council to fully hold Iran to account. “Every year we are taking a step backward rather than a step forward,” she said.
Read below the opinion article by Mehrtash Rastegar, a London-based Iranian blogger who sits on the board of ‘Neda for Free Iran’, and Nir Boms, the co-founder of the website CyberDissidents.org.
A Moment of Truth in Geneva?
By Mehrtash Rastegar and Nir Boms
Next week, for the first time since the 1979 revolution, the UN will review the human rights record of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a process during which the human rights records of all 192 UN Member States are review. The UPR began in 2006 following the growing criticism of the lack of attention given to human rights at the UN. In response, the Human Rights Council was established. And now comes its first moment of truth.
Iran has been oppressed by the rule of tyranny since its rebirth in 1979 as an Islamic republic. Despite countless attempts to condemn Iran for its gross violations of human rights and its persistent failure to amend its laws and actions, the human rights record in Iran remains deplorable and abysmal. Iran is in constant breach of international treaties and conventions that its government has ratified, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966 (ICCPR); Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989 (CRC); and the customary binding declaration, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948 (UDHR).
The latest human rights breach took the form of the execution by strangulation of two dissidents, Mohammad-Reza Ali-Zamani and Arash Rahmanipour for “plotting attacks against Islamic rule.” Arash was under 18 years of age at the time the charges were brought against him, which constitutes a violation of Article 37(a) of the CRC whereby no one may be executed for any crime committed whilst below the age of 18. Furthermore, death by strangulation is facilitated by the lifting of the condemned at the neck, by a crane- a very slow and excruciating death which was ruled as a direct breach of Article 7 ICCPR: prohibition of torture, cruel or inhuman treatment in the case of Ng v Canada.
The reprehensible authorities reigning in Iran have also violated anti-gender discrimination laws. UN Special Rapporteur Yakin Erturk reported that in 2001, 375 of the 575 ‘honor killings’ in the southern province of Khouzestan were forced suicides by way of women setting themselves on fire. Special Rapporteur Radhika Coomaraswamy found that Iranian laws permit a husband to execute his wife if he finds that she has been unfaithful, whereas if the situation was reversed, the wife would be executed by the state on the charge of murder.
Although the law protects ethnic minorities, such as Azaries, Kurds, Baluchis and Arabs – who constitute over 30 percent of the population – they have been subjected to policies of population transfers, discrimination, and executions without trial. Members of minority faiths, such as the Bahaïs, Sunni Muslims, Jews and Zoroastrians, are often persecuted as well. A recently enacted law prescribes the execution of one who converts away from Islam, i.e. becomes an apostate.
These crimes and the many other abuses that are committed on a daily basis in Iran should find their way to the agenda of the Human Rights Council. And yet, thus far this body has refrained from condemning Iran for its abysmal human rights record. While the General Assembly continues to ‘monitor’ the human rights situation in Iran, more and more people are persecuted, arbitrarily arrested, tortured, executed and exiled. Next Monday, the Human Rights Council will have a chance to amend a long overdue UN course of action.
To help ensure that end, the UN delegates will not be alone in Geneva. A broad coalition, comprising human rights groups whose purpose is to speak up for human rights and to campaign for their effective enforcement in Iran, will be in Geneva. The Coalition calls for UN human rights monitors to be granted unfettered access to Iran, and it calls on the international community to stop providing the Iranian regime with tools to oppress its own population, e.g. China’s delivery of anti-riot tanks and Russia providing special interrogation techniques to the Iranian officials.
The international community must show that human rights violations will not be tolerated and that they take paramount importance irrespective of any other issue. Non-governmental groups cannot do this alone. It is time government ministers raise the human rights issue with Iran, as they do with other countries. And it is high time the United Nations to do more than just ‘monitor’ the worsening situation in Iran.
On Monday, the UN Human Rights Council will face an important test. Let’s hope it will pass it.
Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress
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