“A Window of Opportunity in Iran,” Says Special Rapporteur
At the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Special Rapporteur Ahmed Shaheed presented his latest interim report on the situation of human rights in Iran and answered questions from several countries’ representatives today. Although Iranian authorities have yet to allow Shaheed to enter the country, the Iranian representative to the UN met with him in both Geneva and New York in the past month.
The 20-page report, based on 137 interviews, welcomed several positive developments in the situation of human rights in Iran while also emphasizing the need for reforms in both legislation and implementation of human rights principles. Shaheed cited the recent release of over a dozen prisoners of conscience, and urged the government of Iran to further release hundreds of other human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience. He also noted the widespread Internet censorship in Iran, as well as the persecution and prosecution of religious and ethnic minorities and media professionals. Shaheed urged the UN General Assembly to continue to give high priority to human rights in Iran.
In her response, the representative from Iran emphasized the recent presidential election, citing it as a “clear example of renewed … democracy.” She also drew attention to the effect of sanctions on the situation of human rights in Iran, calling them “belligerent.”
The Iranian representative said that Iran is fully dedicated to the protection of human rights, citing its cooperation with some UN human rights mechanisms, and said the report of the Special Rapporteur was a “non-objective and counterproductive exercise.” Speaking in English, the representative’s tone was markedly different from that of previous years, when the tone of the response has at times been openly hostile. She voiced the Iranian government’s continued reticence to allow the Special Rapporteur to enter Iran, and criticized the country-specific mandate.
After the Iranian representative’s response, several countries’ representatives commented and asked questions of the Special Rapporteur. Canada, Australia, the European Union, Ireland, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, the United States, Norway, the Maldives, the United Kingdom, and Brazil welcomed the Special Rapporteur’s report to varying degrees. Belarus and the Russian Federation criticized the Special Mandate as being politically motivated.
The representatives’ questions highlighted several human rights issues from the Special Rapporteur’s report of concern to their respective countries. In particular, several countries asked about the situation of women’s rights, the rights of children, of religious and ethnic minorities, the high rate of executions, including executions of minors and those charged with crimes that do not meet the “most serious crimes” requirements, and the effect of sanctions on the human rights situation in the country. The Special Rapporteur responded to questions and closed by saying that the new administration represents a “window of opportunity in Iran,” which he hopes will lead to positive changes in the human rights situation.