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5/2/04 - U-N RIGHTS GROUP IGNORES IRAN - 2004-05-03

The annual session of the United Nations Human Rights Commission has ended in Geneva with no rebuke of Iran. The commission's silence comes after a year of particularly grievous violations by Tehran's Islamic fundamentalist regime: the beating to death of Canadian-Iranian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi while in government custody; the disqualification of thousands of electoral candidates; the closing of independent newspapers and journals; the imprisonment of journalists, students, and other reformers; sentencing dissidents to be flogged or killed.

Basic human rights are denied by law in Iran. As one of the commission’s own working groups reported, Iran’s legal system stipulates that “evidence by a man is equivalent to that of two women”; punishments for sins “against divine law” are “the death penalty, crucifixion, stoning, amputation of the right hand and, for repeat offenses, the left foot, flogging”; “criminal proceedings in their entirety are. . .concentrated in the hands of a single person since the judge prosecutes, investigates, and decides the case.”

Unlike the U-N Human Rights Commission, Ambeyi Ligabo, the U-N's Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, has not been silent about human rights abuses in Iran. In January, after a visit to Iran, Mr. Ligabo issued a report that described the "climate of fear induced by the systematic repression of people expressing critical views against the authorized political and religious doctrine." He said that the severity of the sentences imposed by the government has led to "self-censorship among many journalists, intellectuals, politicians, students, and the population at large." In light of these findings, Mr. Ligabo recommended visits to Iran by the U-N's Special Rapporteur on the question of torture and by the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers.

President George W. Bush says that despite such abuses, the desire for liberty is alive in Iran:

"In the face of harsh repression, Iranians are courageously speaking out for democracy and the rule of law and human rights."

The U.S., says Mr. Bush, strongly supports the aspirations of Iranians for freedom.