The United States and the European Union published a joint declaration at the conclusion of their annual summit held this year in Slovenia. In the declaration, the U.S. and the EU called on the government of Iran to comply with its international obligations concerning its nuclear program, and to stop supporting terrorism.
The US-EU declaration also expressed “continued concern about the deterioration of the human rights situation in Iran, especially those of human rights defenders, women and minorities.”
There is good reason for concern. The human rights group headed by Iranian Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi recently published its annual report in which it denounced “the systematic violation of human rights in Iran.” The report by the Defenders of Human Rights Center cited the government’s brutal treatment of student activists, women’s rights campaigners, religious minorities, labor unionists and teachers demanding living wages. It said that freedom of expression has declined since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad became president in 2005, and that any one who objected to regime policies faced intimidation and arrest. Shirin Ebadi said that the regime accuses everyone who disagrees with its policies of “working against national security.”
Human Rights Watch also says that the prosecution of peaceful civil society activists in Iran has become routine. In a recent statement, Human Rights Watch cited the suspicious death in government custody of student detainee Ebrahim Lotfollahi in January 2008, and the death sentence handed down in February to two human rights activists, Farzad Kamangar and Yaghoub Mehrnehad. Both men, says Human Rights Watch, were condemned after secret trials.
At a press briefing after the US-EU summit earlier this month, President George Bush said that those who suffer for liberty have a claim that must not be ignored:
“Any time we find people who were put in jail because they’re willing to speak up for freedom, those of us who live in free lands ought to work to liberate them.”
The United States calls on the Iranian regime to cease the systematic oppression of its citizens, respect the human rights of all Iranian people, and to release those imprisoned for insisting on their universal rights.