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United for Iran Report: Dismal Global Response to Iran's Human Rights Crisis Since 2009

Source: United For Iran

UNGA and UN Secretary-General Should Strengthen Action

(October 24, 2012) - Washington, D.C. - In an unprecedented study released today, United for Iran has described the global response to Iran’s 2009 post-election crackdown and human rights crisis as “feeble.” The organization, which has carried out the year-long assessment, is calling on the international community to elevate human rights promotion in its policy agenda towards Iran, including by taking consensus action at the 67th UN General Assembly this fall. It is also calling on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to establish a cross-regional, multi-state working group to engage the government of Iran on a set of human rights and democratic benchmarks ahead of the 2013 presidential elections in the country.

Click here to read the full report.

“The UN Secretary-General recently pledged the UN’s support for the long struggle for democracy and human rights in Iran-welcomed words many Iranians have been waiting years to hear,” said Dokhi Fassihian, United for Iran’s director of programs and advocacy and the report’s principal author. “We are now calling on the Secretary-General to work with leading governments and with Iran to turn this pledge into a reality.” Specifically, United for Iran is calling for a working group similar to the contact group set up in 2007 to improve freedoms for Burmese citizens and persuade the military government to release political prisoners and usher in reforms.

The report, Toward a Human Rights and Democracy Agenda for Iran: An Assessment of the International Response to the Crackdown Since 2009, states that over the past decade, the international community has been “largely focused on curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions at the expense of critical support for human rights and freedoms in the country.” It takes note that since the early 1980s, some four special rapporteurs have been appointed to monitor the precarious situation, but little more has been invested to ensure sustained improvement.

“It is safe to say that the unrepresentative regime in Tehran is not pursuing the interests of its own people,” said Fassihian. “In dealing with Iran on its nuclear program, and in imposing crippling sanctions that affect ordinary Iranians, the global community should also pursue a long-term strategy, which recognizes the urgent responsibility to simultaneously demand respect for the rights of the Iranian people, who are better suited to hold their leaders accountable in the long-term.”

The report, examines the multilateral and bilateral policies of 16 key governments toward Iran and the unfolding human rights crisis-namely the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, China, Russia, Turkey, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Nigeria, and South Africa. United for Iran provides over 90 recommendations to these states to strengthen human rights attention to the situation in Iran, including benchmarks that should be advanced for positive change to come to the country.

Among the other recommendations to states, the organization is calling for support for the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur and the annual resolutions at the UN General Assembly and UN Human Rights Council until such benchmarks are met; adoption of strict export control and corporate accountability policies to block the transfer of sensitive technology that can be used to commit abuses against Iranian citizens; and the inclusion of human rights promotion in their bilateral and multilateral relations with the Iranian government.

While the United States and the European Union have maintained a marginal human rights component in their foreign policies toward Iran, they have yet to include human rights in the high level talks with Iran, something they did in the 1970s during talks with the Soviet Union which led to the Helsinki Accords. South Korea, Turkey, India, and Indonesia have avoided direct condemnation on human rights abuses in Iran, and, Brazil and South Africa have acted ambiguously. China and Russia, major suppliers of military arms to Iran, have voted against specific human rights resolutions at the UNGA since 2009. Turkey, a key regional supporter of the “Arab Spring”, has not yet allowed the UN Special Rapporteur on Iran within its borders to meet with thousands of Iranians asylum seekers and refugees who have been victims of Iran’s crackdown since 2009.

The report concludes with a recommendation that world powers, emerging powers, and the UN system work in concert to ensure meaningful improvement based on the following minimum set of benchmarks:

  • A verifiable commitment to provide full investigative access to, and cooperate with, UN human rights mechanisms, including the UN Special Rapporteur and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
  • Release of political prisoners
  • A moratorium on the death penalty until Iran’s laws and practices meet international standards at a minimum
  • End to restrictions on the media, free expression, and assembly
  • The conduct of genuine, democratic elections, free from vetting and subject to international observation, and reforms to achieve accountable, democratic governance
  • The establishment of a National Human Rights Institute that meets the Paris Principles outlined in UN General Assembly Resolution 48/134 of 1993

Absent robust pressure from the international community towards such verifiable progress, Iran’s leaders will continue to escalate violations with impunity. In his most recent report to the UN General Assembly, the Special Rapporteur cited a “deeply troubling picture of the overall human rights situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran, including many concerns which are systemic in nature.” The report also delineated the disturbing treatment of activists and human rights defenders, who are often subject to torture, including beatings, mock hangings, rape, sleep deprivation, and threats that family members will be raped or killed. Just this week, the UN Special Rapporteurs on Iran, torture, and extrajudicial execution deplored the Iranian government’s execution of 10 individuals for drug charges, despite global outcry and its blatant violation of international law.

The systemic and enduring nature of the Iranian government’s efforts to curb human and civil rights underscore the urgent need for high-level global attention, particularly ahead of the 2013 presidential elections. “The international community should realize that Iranians deserve the same assistance that citizens in South Africa and Burma received from the world to end injustice and repression,” said Fassihian. “Societies do not democratize in vacuums. It requires sustained and collective pressure, and the active support and assistance by the international community.”

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