Iran: Appoint Special UN Envoy to Investigate Rights Crisis
During Ahmadinejad's Visit, UN Members Should Demand Accountability for
(New York, September 21, 2009) - Member states of the United Nations should
use President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's upcoming visit to the UN General Assembly to
address Iran's worsening human rights crisis, the International Campaign for
Human Rights in Iran and Human Rights Watch said today.
The two organizations have documented extensive violations committed by
state-sponsored forces since the June 12 presidential election, including
unlawful use of lethal force against peaceful protesters, lengthy solitary
confinement, and coerced confessions. There have also been numerous allegations
of torture and rape of detainees. The two rights groups urged the General
Assembly to appoint a special envoy during its 64th session to investigate and
document human rights violations in Iran.
"UN member states, meeting as the General Assembly, have a responsibility to
uphold UN human rights principles and demand that Iran stop these grave
violations," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at
Human Rights Watch. "The international community's voice, heard through the UN,
can make a big difference in bringing an end to this crisis."
In the aftermath of the disputed election, hundreds of thousands of Iranians
publicly protested what they said was massive fraud in counting the ballots.
These protests were numerous and largely peaceful. On June 19, Iran's leader,
Ayatollah Syed Ali Khamenei, who as the commander in chief is responsible for
the actions of the security forces, the Revolutionary Guards, and the Basij
militia, threatened the protesters with use of force if they did not end their
Over the following days, government forces confronted demonstrators with
excessive and sometimes lethal force, leading to dozens of deaths, hundreds of
injuries and numerous arbitrary detentions. The government has recently
publicized mass trials in which prominent reformists and others read confessions
that bore every sign of being coerced.
The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran is releasing a new
14-page report on September 21, "Accelerating Slide into Dictatorship,"
detailing many serious human rights violations, including murder, torture, and
rape of detainees, as well as violations of the right to freedom of association
and freedom of assembly, arbitrary arrests, "disappearances," incommunicado
detentions, unfair trials, and disregard for due process.
"Despite the government's tightening grip and resort to brutality,
responsible members of Iran's civil society and political and clerical
communities continue to demand the authorities respect fundamental rights and
Iran's international obligations, at grave risk to their own well-being," said
Hadi Ghaemi, director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.
"Member states of the United Nations should honor the courage of Iran's citizens
by appointing a special envoy."
Since June, more than 4,000 people have been detained, including at least
250 prominent political figures, journalists, professors, student leaders, and
human rights defenders. Nearly 400 people are still in detention months later.
The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran and Human Rights Watch
said the government is covering up deaths in detention by forcing families to
claim their loved ones died of natural causes. Both organizations have collected
accounts from victims' families that government agents have exerted tremendous
pressure on them not to publicize the deaths of their children.
The father of a victim who was shot and killed by security forces during a
demonstration, and who wished to remain anonymous, told Human Rights Watch:
"When I insisted to security authorities who
turned over the body of my son to tell me the reason for my son's death and
how he was killed, they forbade me from doing any media interviews, saying
it will endanger my family. They threatened me further by saying if I pursue
the matter my other son's life will be in danger. They also forbade us from
holding a memorial service."
A 24-year-old Iranian, Ebrahim Sharifi, was detained on June 22 by plainclothes
agents for one week. He provided detailed testimony to the campaign regarding
his torture and rape during detention. He said he was subjected to severe
beatings, mock executions, and sexual assault. When he attempted to file a
judicial complaint and told several judicial authorities what happened,
intelligence agents threatened him and his family, forcing him into hiding.
Sharifi's full account is detailed in "Accelerating Slide into Dictatorship."
The opposition campaigns of Mir-Hussein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi have
published the names of at least 72 people who they allege have been killed by
security forces. Because of extreme restrictions imposed on and threats against
human rights defenders and families of the victims, international organizations
have not been able to confirm the names of those killed. Medical sources at
three hospitals in Tehran told the campaign that 34 dead bodies were taken to
these hospitals on June 20 alone. The government claims that only 30 people died
during the unrest.
Iranian authorities are doing all they can to prevent word of these grave rights
violations from reaching Iranians and the outside world. On September 7,
security forces attacked the office of the Mousavi campaign, where the Committee
to Investigate the Situation of Detainees collects, documents, and disseminates
information about those who were detained and injured during the recent
incidents. On September 8, government agents searched the offices of Karroubi's
party, Etemaad Melli, taking all documents, films, CDs, and computers.
Government agents have closed both offices. Also on September 8, authorities
shut the office of the Association to Defend Prisoners Rights, a nongovernmental
organization founded by leading human rights defender Emad Baghi.
No independent international human rights organization has been allowed to work
inside Iran. Iranian human rights organizations have been either shut down or
face constant threats and intimidation. UN human rights experts have repeatedly
requested to travel to the country, but the government has denied their
Given the lack of access to Iran, the urgency of the ongoing human rights
crisis, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran and Human Rights
Watch urged the General Assembly to take resolute action by appointing a special
Read the report by the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, "Accelerating
Slide into Dictatorship"
For additional reporting on Iran by Human Rights Watch and the International
Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, please visit:
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