Russia Must Address Human Rights Violations in Iran to be a Credible Global Power (Commentary)
By Ludmilla Alekseeva
Russian authorities need to do much more to protect the human rights of Russian citizens, but the Russian government should also think about its international human rights responsibilities. Russia needs to join other democratic states in doing what is possible to stop the world’s worst human rights violators from terrorizing their citizens. On the world scene today, there is hardly another country that threatens human rights more than our neighbors to the south in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
I have seen many tragic things in my long career as a human rights advocate, but what is happening in Iran deeply shocks me. The execution rate is skyrocketing. Around 150 persons have been executed already in 2011, which means around one every eight hours. Most have been hung for drug-related crimes that do not warrant the death penalty according to United Nations policy. Three have been hung so far this year for participating in peaceful protests. Around 114 young people are on death row for crimes committed as juveniles, as Iran still executes juvenile offenders. And Iran still uses barbaric, illegal punishments including stoning, amputation, and flogging.
There are around 500 prisoners of conscience languishing in Iran’s jails, and over 1500 more were recently arbitrarily arrested for peacefully demanding respect for their human rights. Torture is a standard means to extract false confessions. The Iranian judiciary is deeply politicized and does not respect due process standards. There continues to be systematic, legal discrimination against women. Human rights defenders and lawyers have been jailed or driven out of the country. At this time, four leading opposition figures are apparently illegally detained in what is defined under international law as a forced disappearance.
Iran has been almost totally uncooperative with UN authorities in the face of these problems, and has rejected numerous recommendations made by the General Assembly, by other UN members, and by the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
If Russia wants to be a credible global power, it will speak out against these terrible abuses and join other countries that are trying to bring them to an end. Russia’s courageous and appropriate statements and actions at the UN on Libya must be applied to Iran as well as other situations where not only human lives, but also respect for human rights principles is at stake.
On March 24 in the UN Human Rights Council, Russia will have a chance to demonstrate its support for the people of Iran and for human rights principles and United Nations mechanisms. A resolution is being tabled by Sweden that will establish a special human rights rapporteur to focus on Iran. It is a constructive proposal that will help the UN and civil society gather accurate information, and it can provide a platform for dialogue about what Iran needs to do to comply with its international obligations.
As it did with Libya, Russia should support UN scrutiny of Iran by supporting the resolution on March 24. It would be a signal that Russia is serious about human rights and its international role.
Ludmilla Alexeeva was a founder in 1976 and is now Chair of the Moscow Helsinki Group. She has been awarded, inter alia, the Olof Palme Prize and the Sakharov Prize, and served as president of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights.