“Personal attacks on UN Officials Show Iranians Not Free to Express Opinions,” Says Ahmed Shaheed
On Friday, March 14, 2014, Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran, held a press conference at the UN in Geneva to discuss his new report to the Human Rights Council.
When asked about his opinion on the personal attacks made on him and the UN by conservative Iranian officials and media, Ahmed Shaheed responded, “Personal attacks are nothing new. When a UN Special Rapporteur or the Secretary General or other [European] officials can receive personal attacks for the things they say, think about what could happen to those Iranians who may express their opinions in Tehran or in other places?”
Ahmed Shaheed asked the Iranian Government to allow him to travel to the country so that he can have discussions with the government and the civil society in order to pursue his mission’s goals. “The road ahead is long and bumpy, but with cooperation and determination, I believe that real change can still occur.”
Ahmed Shaheed’s press conference followed the release of his latest report on the situation of human rights in Iran to the UN Human Rights Council. “Today, I report with deep regret that despite overtures and announcements emanating from the newly elected Iranian government, and perhaps even in spite of modest attempts to take steps towards reform, the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran remains of serious concern,” he said at the beginning of his press conference.
“Hundreds of political prisoners continue to languish in detention, often for nothing more than the alleged “crime” of expressing an opinion or belief. Members of ethnic, religious, and sexual minority groups face harassment and persecution for advocating for group rights, worship, or communal heritage, when such advocacy deviates from officially-sanctioned positions,” the Special Rapporteur continued.
Addressing the continuing surge in the number of executions carried out in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed said, “the Iranian Government continues to execute individuals at an alarming rate, prompting a number of UN officials and Special Procedures, including myself, to call twice over the past month for an immediate moratorium on the practice. Most of the executions carried out are for alleged drug trafficking-related crimes, which do not meet international standards of “most serious” to qualify for application of the death penalty.”
“Other executions, like those of Ahwazi cultural activists Hashem Shabani and Hadi Rashedi, and of former child bride Ms Farzaneh Moradi, raise serious concerns over due process and fair trial guarantees; concerns which are compounded when the punishment meted out is so ultimate and irreversible. The impending execution of Mr. Rouhallah Tavani for allegedly insulting the Holy Prophet, a conviction based solely on a private home video of a birthday party which had been seized by authorities, is also inhumane and illegal,” added the UNSpecial Rappporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran.
Ahmed Shaheed said that despite signs that some members of the Rouhani cabinet may favor increasing press freedom, in fact more newspapers have been shut down or kept from re-opening over the recent months. “Both the Bahar and Aseman periodicals were recently shut down following published commentary on theological questions related to Shi’a Islam, indicating that the Government will not even tolerate discussion within the confines of the state religion. Sixteen IT professionals and cyber-activists were arrested in December 2013 for allegedly cooperating with foreign media, and at least 5 of them, and 40 overall journalists remain in detention. Another columnist for a conservative paper was sued by the National Security Council in February for criticizing Iran’s nuclear program. The suit is ongoing,” he said.
Referring to President Rouhan’s proposed “Charter of Citizens’ Rights,” Ahmed Shaheed said that it “seemingly falls short of addressing the pressing issues repeatedly raised in my reports, in those of the Secretary-General, and those raised by other Special Rapporteurs, Treaty Bodies, human rights groups, and international organizations.”
The UN Special Rapporteur asked the Iranian Government release all political prisoners. He also asked the Government to amend the draft Charter of Citizenship Rights, “to ensure that all rights posited therein are unconditionally guaranteed to all citizens.” He also asked the Iranian Government to “investigate and prosecute any individuals found responsible for prior human rights abuses in contravention of Iranian law or Iran’s international human rights obligations, including cases from the post-2009 election unrest, and from before, if necessary.”
Ahmed Shaheed concluded by stating that the Iranian Government “should place a moratorium on capital punishment, until such time as it can meaningfully reform its penal system for drug convicts and ensure due process and fair trial guarantees, without undue influence from political forces, for individuals detained on ‘national security’ charges.”
On Monday, March 17, Shaheed will formally present his latest report to the Human Rights Council in Geneva. The interactive dialogue will include Iran’s official reply and discussion of Shaheed’s findings by the Council member states.
Member states will vote on a resolution calling for the renewal of Shaheed’s mandate for a fourth consecutive year towards the end of the current session on March 21.