Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi has
called for urgent international help to counter a growing list of rights abuses
in her native Iran.
Speaking at a discussion in Geneva sponsored by human rights groups, Ebadi said time was of the essence amid the current government crackdown on dissent.
"Tomorrow will be too late, tomorrow we will face a tragedy in Iran," Ebadi said. "Please help us to extinguish this fire in our homes."
Ebadi, a human rights lawyer, also criticized governments that sign economic deals with Tehran without publicly raising human rights issues.
"If this situation continues in Iran, I must warn that the day will arrive when the young Iranian people will no longer be able to endure government violence, they will reach the end of their rope," Ebadi said. "For how long can I urge the young people in my country to stage peaceful demonstrations? When I say tomorrow is too late, that is exactly what I mean, there will be a human-rights tragedy in Iran."
But she also called economic sanctions ineffective in pressuring Iran to reform.
"Please do not sell weapons to the Iranian government," Ebadi implored. "These are the [measures] that are useful. Economic sanctions, broad economic sanctions, only hurt innocent people and we are against that."
Ebadi also criticized Western governments for restricting visas for Iranian students and activists, asking, "Are you punishing our people or are you punishing our government?"
Ebadi said while she opposes economic sanctions and military action, if the Iranian government continues to violate human rights and ignore people's demands, she said she might advocate "political sanctions."
"I don't mean cutting off political ties with the Iranian government completely," Ebadi said. "What I mean is downgrading ties with the Iranian government, for example recalling your respective ambassadors from Iran and downgrading diplomatic relations with Iran from the ambassador level to the charge d'affaires level."
Ebadi's comments come ahead of a UN Human Rights Council review of Iran's rights record on February 15.
It will be held under the council's regular program of rotating reviews of all governments' rights records -- but its timing coincides with widespread condemnation of Iranian brutality.
On February 8, the United States and the European Union issued a joint statement denouncing Tehran's continued human rights transgressions.
The same day, Ebadi wrote an open letter to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay. In it, she decried the official Iranian response to last year's disputed reelection of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, which prompted widespread protests.
Street demonstrations have been followed by deaths in custody, mass roundups and televised trials, and allegations of torture. Strict bans have also been placed on foreign and domestic journalists.
In her letter, Ebadi also called for the UN Human Rights Council to appoint a special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran and use "whatever means possible" to get other human rights monitoring staff into the country.
Iranians on February 11 marked the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution, with large pro-government rallies as well as scattered opposition demonstrations.
The UN Human Rights Council has been criticized by some as failing to address many of the world's rights violations while simply providing a stage for countries to tout their own rights records.
Defenders say the council allows for public criticism that might not otherwise be heard in UN discussions.
compiled from agency reports
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