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A Special Rapporteur Needed For Iran

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressed grave concern regarding human rights abuses in Iran. Foto: Steffi Loos/dapd

There is a clear need for establishment of a special U.N. Human Rights Council rapporteur on Iran, to gather evidence on human rights conditions there.

The repression of Iranian citizens and the violation of their rights by the Iranian government continue unabated.

In a newly published report, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressed grave concern regarding human rights abuses in Iran, including reports of "increased executions, amputations, arbitrary arrest and detention, unfair trials, and possible torture and ill-treatment of human rights activists, lawyers and opposition activists." The report noted a "worrying trend is the increased number of cases in which political prisoners are accused of mohareb (enmity against God) offenses which carry the death penalty."

As an example of the ongoing repression in Iran, an undisclosed number of people have recently been arrested for supposedly preaching the Baha'i faith in several Iranian cities. Bahai's are the largest non-Muslim religious minority in Iran. They are considered apostates by the government and suffer systematic persecution. In 2008 in a blatant illustration of that persecution, the government rounded up seven Baha'i national leaders, and in 2010 sentenced each to ten years in prison on trumped up charges of espionage.

Iran's treatment of the Baha'i community, as well as its repression of other minority religious groups, including Christians and Sufi Muslims, abrogate its international obligations under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which Iran has ratified, and which enshrines the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

As noted in Secretary General Ban's report, the Iranian authorities' treatment of Baha'is and their continued repression of human rights in Iran offer strong evidence of the need for the U.N. Human Rights Council to establish a special rapporteur on Iran to gather more information on conditions there and to raise international pressure on the government to stop violating the rights of the Iranian people. The United States is working with Sweden, Zambia, the Maldives and other partners to create such a position, which is scheduled to come up for a vote in the Council in late March.

At recent address in Geneva, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that a positive outcome would mark "a seminal moment" for the Human Rights Council, and would test the ability of the Council to work together to advance its goals of protecting human rights and holding violators accountable. "The denial of human dignity in Iran," said Secretary Clinton, "is an outrage that deserves the condemnation of all who speak out for freedom and justice."