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Shifting Pressure from Nuclear Case to Human Rights

07/02/11 By Davoud Hermidas Bavand, Faculty Member, University of Tehran & Expert on International Issues
Source: Iranian Diplomacy; Translated By: Iran Review

The United Nations Human Rights Council has appointed Ahmed Shaheed, the former Maldivian foreign minister, as its special human rights rapporteur on Iran. The Council had already adopted a proposal by the United States on March 24, 2010, and opened a new post as special human rights rapporteur on Iran.

Appointing human rights rapporteurs for countries has been a procedure used by both the former Human Rights Commission and its predecessor, the Human Rights Council. Two human rights rapporteurs have already visited Iran. Reynaldo Galindo Pohl (from 1986 to 1994) and Maurice Copithorne (from 1995 to 2001) were assigned to investigate the situation of human rights in Iran. They made a number of visits to Iranian prisons, met with various personalities and prepared reports on the situation of human rights in the country. Both the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly have already adopted resolutions on the situation of human rights in Iran. Resolutions passed by the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council only contain recommendations and are not binding. Therefore, to assure implementation of those resolutions, rapporteurs have been appointed to visit Iran and prepare human rights reports through investigation in the field. The Human Rights Council is affiliated to the General Assembly and its reports are finally relayed to the General Assembly.

Iranian parliament deputies have made different remarks on how to deal with the new rapporteur. It should be noted that Iran had been nominated for membership at the Council and when you accept credibility of an international organization, you should also have respect for its decisions.

Paragraph 2, Article 2 of the Charter of the United Nations has stipulated that “All Members, in order to ensure to all of them the rights and benefits resulting from membership, shall fulfill in good faith the obligations assumed by them in accordance with the present Charter.” Therefore, all member states of the United Nations should respect its decisions as well as decisions made by the Human Rights Council. On the other hand, Iran has acceded to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights as well as International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Therefore, the country is under international obligations disregard for which will be considered violation of those international obligations. On the other hand, human rights have been recognized as a universal value. Therefore, Iran is obliged to receive the human rights rapporteur as his rejection may amount to breach of its international obligations.

It is noteworthy that the rapporteur will prepare his report on human rights situation in Iran one way or another. Therefore, if he is not allowed to travel to Iran, he will find other ways to complete that report. He may contact certain people in Iran through e-mail, phone or other means of communication. When he visits Iran, however, he will be in direct touch with the realities on the ground.

Human rights rapporteurs usually try to take the edge off their reports. In parallel to criticism of relative breaches of human rights, they also offer recommendations as how to make the situation better. If Iran, however, rejected the rapporteur, the rejection would be ensued with propaganda and be taken as confirmation that human rights charges against Iran are not baseless. This will also substantiate the contents of the aforesaid resolutions and will have consequences for the country.

Rejection of the human rights rapporteur may lead to certain reactions. The former Human Rights Commission, for example, appointed a special rapporteur on South Africa in 1993, who was rejected by that country. As a result, the United Nations took the South African government to task and did not accept credentials of the South African delegation from 1970 to 1972. President of the General Assembly clearly announced that the General Assembly was not willing for the South African delegates to attend its sessions. Therefore, while the name of South Africa was put on the big board inside the General Assembly hall, its delegates were not allowed to take part in sessions until 1994.

Such punishments depend on the existing conditions. In general, the pressure on Iran is shifting from the nuclear case to human rights and most positions against the country are taken in relation to human rights. If political atmosphere called for, they were sure to think of other ways to put more pressure on Iran. Expelling Iran from the Human Rights Council is one of those solutions. At any rate, Ahmed Shaheed is sure to submit his report on human rights situation in Iran. Rejecting the rapporteur’s report by Tehran will worsen allegations and incriminations against the Islamic Republic of Iran. It will also make the existing atmosphere tenser and pave the way for further decisions and pressures on Iran.

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