EU Says Human Rights Must Be Front and Center in Europe-Iran Relations
New Resolution Highly Critical of Iran’s Human Rights Record
On Thursday, April 3, 2014, the European Parliament passed a resolution expressing grave concern over the human rights situation in Iran and the “continued, systemic violation of fundamental rights” in the country, and called on the members of the European Union to “mainstream human rights in all of its relations with Iran.”
With the passage of the resolution, EU Strategy toward Iran, the EU has unequivocally signaled its rejection of Iran’s efforts to limit its dialogue with the West exclusively to the nuclear issue. Indeed, while expressing strong support for the Geneva interim agreement on Iran’s nuclear program, and for the continuation of efforts to reach a peaceful negotiated solution to the nuclear issue, the European Parliament forcefully proclaimed human rights will not be relegated to the back seat of foreign relations while the negotiations proceed.
The resolution drew particular attention to Iran’s lack of cooperation with UN human rights bodies, including the denial of a visa to the UN Special Rapporteur on Iran, and called for “the release of all imprisoned human rights defenders, political prisoners, trade unionists, labor activists, and those detained after the 2009 Presidential elections.”
It expressed “grave concern” over the widespread allegations of torture and unfair trials, and “alarm over the high number of executions in 2013 and 2014, including those of minors.” It noted that most of the 2013 executions were carried out after the election of Hassan Rouhani to the presidency. The resolution also condemned restrictions on freedom of information, association, and expression in Iran.
Iranian officials reacted furiously to the report. On April 2, Marzieh Afkham, Spokeswoman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry said, “We reject and find unacceptable the human rights position of the EU Parliament and their raising of false issues, especially about the Iranian elections.”
In an interview with Fars News Agency, Member of the Iranian Parliament Mehdi Davatgari stated, “This resolution aims to provoke and incite public opinion,” and added that “the Islamic Republic of Iran will not be influenced by biased reports of so-called human rights organizations in the West in its internal governance and in maintaining its independence.”
Responding to the report’s criticism of minority rights in Iran, Davatgari said, “The issue of violations of the rights of Iran’s religious minorities is a funny joke, because five of their representatives sit at the Iranian Parliament with equal votes with Muslim representatives.” Referring to the call that “any future European Parliament delegations to Iran should be committed to meeting political opposition, civil society activists and having access to political prisoners,” the Iranian MP said, “As the Islamic Republic of Iran has no trust in the European delegations, it cannot allow them to visit our country’s prisons.”