Iran’s State Media Launches Yet Another Attack on U.N. Special Rapporteur
Ever desperate to discredit the work and person of UN Special Rapporteur for human rights in Iran Ahmed Shaheed, news agencies in Iran run by the Judiciary have made a new round of allegations against the UN official that have been completely unsubstantiated by any independent source.
The allegations claim that a WikiLeaks document shows the Special Rapporteur received a million dollars from Saudi Arabia in return for promising stronger criticism of the Iranian government in his annual reports on the state of human rights in Iran. But the authenticity of the document used in the news reports has been directly questioned by WikiLeaks itself. In a tweet, WikiLeaks wrote, “Please show which cable this claim is based on. You fail to link to one of our cables in the article.”
On his own Twitter page, Dr. Shaheed, who has been recognized internationally as a principled and scrupulous champion of human rights, thanked WikiLeaks for clarifying and calling attention to the fact that these reports had not been authenticated.
This latest in a long string of Iranian state attacks on Shaheed came shortly after the Special Rapporteur called on Iran’s President Rouhani to pay more attention to the country’s human rights situation now that the Islamic Republic and world powers have come to an agreement on the nuclear issue.
“It is my sincere hope that the successful conclusion of the nuclear talks, which will enable the lifting of economic sanctions, will allow President Hassan Rouhani to focus on his other campaign pledges, specifically those to promote the enjoyment of all human rights by the Iranian people,” said Shaheed in a statement published on July 15, 2015.
The current allegations appear to be a stepped up effort by hardliners to pre-empt any increased pressure inside or outside Iran to heed Shaheed’s words and address the country’s egregious rights record.
“This claim is preposterous and only serves to distract from the task at hand—addressing the serious human rights issues facing the country today,” Shaheed said in an interview with the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. “Allegations to discredit me do not change the [Islamic Republic of Iran’s] record documented by the UN Secretary General and raised by the U.N. human rights mechanisms for the last decade.”
“Executions are taking place at an alarming rate. Women’s rights continue to face significant challenges. Hundreds of individuals are in detention for things they wrote, said, or posted on the Internet. And the Baha’i leadership remain in prison for their religious beliefs,” the U.N. Special Rapporteur continued.
“My work, like the work of my predecessors, is based on research. It presents laws, government statements, as well as information taken from government websites and reports. My work presents interviews with hundreds of individuals, inside and outside Iran, that claim that their rights were violated, and my work presents the research undertaken by dozens of internationally recognized human rights organizations,” Shaheed told the Campaign.
While Iranian officials continue their efforts to discredit Dr. Shaheed and any other human rights defender who attempts to hold the Iranian government accountable for its rights violations, the international community has maintained strong backing for the Special Rapporteur, noting his fair and meticulous work and invaluable contribution to the exposure of human rights abuses in Iran. As such it has renewed his mandate every single year.
In a response on July 29, 2015 to a question on these allegations by a reporter from ISNA (the Iranian Students News Agency), Mohammad Javad Larijani, Head of the Iranian Judiciary’s Human Rights Council, repeated the unsubstantiated claim that Shaheed had received bribes. However, within hours of the posting of the remarks on ISNA’s and the Fars News Agency’s websites, the link to the interview was removed. (To see a screenshot of the removed page click here.)
The attacks against Shaheed are nothing new. Iranian officials and state media outlets have been trying for years to defame him and destroy the credibility of the Special Rapporteur’s work, in a transparent effort to deflect attention from the rights violations documented in Shaheed’s annual reports on Iran.
Since being appointed as the U.N.’s human rights point-man for Iran in 2011, Shaheed has been refused entry into Iran, and his annual reports, detailing widespread rights abuses, have been described by Sadegh Amoli Larijani, who is Head of the Iranian Judiciary, as “lies” and by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Marzieh Afkham as “lacking validity.”.
In a typical remark, in 2014 Javad Larijani called Ahmed Shaheed “a wicked fool,” and said “human rights defender” is another name for terrorist. He stated, “Those who are referred to as ‘human rights defenders’ these days, are soiled with terrorist acts and call themselves human rights defenders…when you hear the name ‘human rights defender,’ these are individuals who commit terrorist acts.”
In 2012, Javad Larijani claimed Shaheed was being fed false information by “terrorist groups” as well as by the U.S. and Israel in support of “mostly those who have carried out terrorist organizations under the guise of human rights defenders.”
In 2013, during a UN HRC session, Javad Larijani accused the Special Rapporteur of “relying on biased sources” and working with “a notorious terrorist group” to compile his reports. Larijani’s vitriol was so great that the president of the session felt obliged to remind Larijani not to personally attack the Rapporteur in his remarks.
The supposed “bribery” allegations are not new either. In March 2013, Javad Larijani accused the Special Rapporteur of taking bribes from the US State Department, an allegation that was later proved to be completely unfounded.
Iran’s human rights chief has not just attacked Shaheed; he has repeatedly equated all human rights defenders with terrorists, making specific reference to the internationally respected human rights lawyer Abdolfattah Soltani, who has been imprisoned in Iran since 2011 for defending free speech and the right to peaceful dissent.
Iranian officials have also moved beyond their vilification of Shaheed to trash the broader human rights mechanisms at the UN and the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon himself. In remarks on November 22, 2011, Javad Larijani stated that [human rights] reports by Ban Ki-moon’s were a reiteration of viewpoints of “terrorist groups and organizations that oppose the Islamic Republic,” and that Iran was “extremely concerned” about the shortcomings of the United Nations under the leadership of Ban Ki-moon.
This pattern of attempted defamation and discrediting is not limited to the Larijani brothers: During a 2014 meeting in the city of Mashhad, Iran’s Justice Minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi claimed that the Special Rapporteur was “corrupt.”
The Iranian state media outlets that have participated in the current uncorroborated allegations against Dr. Shaheed include the Mehr news agency, which is a branch of the state Islamic Promotion Organization, and the Hemayat newspaper, which is run and controlled by the Judiciary’s media arm.