Saturday, March 10, 2012

Iran Steps Up Rights Abuses, U.N. Says

From The Wall Street Journal:

Iran Steps Up Rights Abuses, U.N. Says

BEIRUT—Iran has dramatically increased executions over the past decade and abused the rights of students, women, journalists and religious minorities, according to a new United Nations report that spotlights Tehran's crackdown on domestic dissent as the country faces an international clampdown over its nuclear ambitions.
Associated Press
Iranians watch a hanging in the city of Qazvin in May. The U.N., in a special report issued Wednesday, cited a 'striking pattern' of rights violations.
The Islamic Republic shows "a striking pattern of violations of fundamental human rights," a U.N. special envoy concluded in a 36-page report on Iran that was released Wednesday.
The report—based on more than 80 interviews with witnesses and alleged victims as well as activists, politicians and diplomats—alleges that Iran's government applies its laws inequitably, promoting impunity by not holding rights violators accountable and exempting influential individuals from "rules meant to restrain the abuse of power."
It cites an "alarming increase" in executions, from fewer than 100 people in 2003 to more than 650 in 2011. More than 80% of the executions were related to drug trafficking, which the report argues isn't a serious crime under international law. It said at least 15 men and women face sentences of death by stoning on charges of adultery.
By comparison, 46 prisoners were executed in the U.S. in 2010, according to Amnesty International.
The report also said 42 journalists are currently in prison, more than any other country, and are often barred from appearing at their own trials. It said 364 university students have been deprived of education for life "on the basis of their political and student activities critical of government or university policies."
The report was commissioned a year ago by the U.N. Human Rights Council, and released ahead of the organization's annual meeting in Geneva next week. It arrives as an international spotlight falls on Iran for what the U.S., Europe and Israel allege is its pursuit of nuclear weapons, a charge Iran denies.
Iranian human-rights activists often complain that the world's attention is fixated on this standoff while they say the regime continues a quiet war on internal dissent.
"This is just the beginning of a process at the U.N. level to reveal and address the many aspects of gross and systematic human-rights violations in Iran," said Hadi Ghaemi, the director of the New York-based International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. "It is not going to help Iran gain any friends or support at a time when it's facing so much international pressure."
Iran didn't react to the release of the report, a copy of which was submitted to the government in January in accordance with U.N. protocol. According to the report, Iran didn't reply or cooperate during the investigation. Responding to a preliminary version released in October, Iranian officials cited in local media said it lacked credibility, was based on Western political motives and called the U.N. human-rights committee's reputation into question.
In recent weeks, Iran has rearrested a number of journalists and activists who were out of jail on bail, according to reports, upholding verdicts in appeals courts and handing out heavy sentences.
Human-rights lawyer Abdolfattah Soltani was sentenced Sunday to 18 years in jail and a 20-year ban of practicing law, according to Iranian opposition websites and international rights groups. He was charged with threatening Iran's national security when he accepted the Nuremberg International Human Rights Award for his work.
Authorities on Monday re-arrested Nazanin Khosravani, a young female journalist, after she was released on bail, according to her mother and Iranian human-rights organizations, who said she was ordered to serve her six-year sentence on charges of endangering national security.
A Tehran appeals court on Monday upheld a six-year sentence for another human-rights lawyer, Narges Mohammadi, a mother of two and deputy of head of Iran's Defenders of Human Rights Center, according to statements by human-rights organizations. She was charged with threatening national security and working against the regime.
"These kinds of crackdowns won't really impact the process of change in our society. Nothing will stop our people in their pursuit of freedom," Ms. Mohammadi said Wednesday in an interview with the Persian news website Roozonline.
The U.N.'s human-rights report came about as a result of intense lobbying by Iranian human-rights activists. Following widespread violence in the aftermath of the 2009 presidential election, Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi urged the U.N. Human Rights Council to appoint an independent expert to investigate mounting allegations against Iran.
The Council passed a resolution to create a country rapporteur for Iran in March 2011. Iran became the first country in council's five-year history to receive such a mandate.
Write to Farnaz Fassihi at
A version of this article appeared Mar. 8, 2012, on page A9 in some U.S. editions of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Abuses Rise in Iran, U.N. Says.

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