The U.S. State Department’s latest report on human rights conditions in Iran paints a dark picture of violations and abuse by the Iranian regime.
Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human rights and Labor Michael Posner said the past year saw a continuation of many negative trends:
“Intolerance of dissent, particularly a crackdown on demonstrators in February; free speech restricted; internet freedom restricted; political participation severely circumscribed; unfair trials; amputations; floggings; lots of death penalty, including some this year, many held in secret. So it’s a very grim picture.”
Mr. Posner cited in particular the case of the seven leaders of Iran’s Baha’i community who were sentenced to 20 years in prison:
“In May they marked four years of a twenty-year sentence for basically practicing their religion. It is a human rights situation that is very disturbing, and we’ll continue to call it out.”
The State Department report notes that statistics regarding the number of Iranian citizens imprisoned for their political or religious beliefs over the past year are not available, but human rights monitors estimate the number to be as high as 900. They include journalists, students, lawyers, artists, civil society activists, members of Iran’s religious communities, and ethnic minorities.
Political prisoners, according to the report, are routinely held in solitary confinement for extended periods and often denied due process and access to legal representation. They are also at great risk of torture and abuse in prison.
In a July 13 letter, the State Department reports, imprisoned journalist Issa Saharkhiz accused authorities of using harsh prison conditions to slowly kill political prisoners. There were reports of prison guards and other inmates brutalizing and raping prisoners, especially political prisoners, with impunity.
In her preface to the Country Reports, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton noted that “respect for human rights is not a western construct or a uniquely American ideal; it is the foundation for peace and stability everywhere. . .”
“The United States,” she said, “stands with all those who seek to advance human dignity, and we will continue to shine the light of international attention on their efforts.”