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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Human Rights Council Votes 22 to 7 to Establish Special Rapporteur

Human Rights Council Votes 22 to 7 to Establish Special Rapporteur

”Strong Support for the Iranian People”

(24 March 2011) Today’s Human Rights Council (HRC) decision to establish a UN special mechanism on human rights in Iran is an important step forward to address the human rights crisis and a victory for the Iranian people, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said.

Although the Iranian government has tried to lead an anti-human rights bloc at the UN, this vote is a repudiation of Iran’s efforts to hide behind cultural relativism as an excuse to subjugate citizens, the Campaign said. The vote showed “that the international community sees through Iran’s transparent lies about its brutal practices.”

The move followed two years of intense efforts by human rights advocates, as the HRC voted overwhelmingly on a resolution establishing a Special Rapporteur.

The resolution received an absolute majority of 22 votes in favor, versus only 7 against, and 14 abstentions. Of particular importance were the votes of Brazil, Senegal, and South Korea in favor of the resolution.

A wide spectrum of Iranian activists welcomed the resolution.

“This is a strong message of support to the Iranian people from the international community that they are not forgotten, and gross violations of their rights will not be tolerated,” said Shirin Ebadi, the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.

In the Resolution establishing the mechanism, the HRC regretted Iran’s “lack of cooperation with the requests of the General Assembly” made in December 2010. The Council called upon the Islamic Republic “to cooperate fully with the Special Rapporteur and to permit access to visit the country as well as all necessary information to enable fulfillment of the mandate.”

“In the absence of any meaningful monitoring mechanism inside the country, we are facing a true crisis,” said Ali Akbar Mousavi Khoeini, a former member of Parliament in Iran who investigated prison conditions during his tenure from 2000-2004. “With human rights organizations shuttered and the Parliament failing to perform its oversight role, this mechanism is essential,” he added.

“The Iranian government can no longer deny and cover up the gross violations taking place,” added Puyan Mahmoudian, a student activist and editor-in-chief of the online student news site Daneshjoonews.

“At a minimum, the Special Rapporteur gives hope to the families of hundreds of political prisoners that their loved ones are not forgotten,” said Parisa Kakaee, a human rights activist.

“When I was imprisoned, I saw first-hand the impact of international protests on the Iranian government. Although they pretend they do not care, international protests and pressures do indeed matter to the government,” said Hassan Yusufi Eshkevari, religious scholar and researcher who has been defrocked by the Inquisition-style Special Court for the Clergy.

“The establishment of the special mechanism will not undo the gross injustices experienced by Iranian people over the past two years, but it will at least demonstrate international concerns and demand accountability from the Iranian government,” said Asieh Amini, Iranian journalist and human rights activist.

Nasim Sarabandi, a student and women’s rights activist, noted that one of the challenges facing the Special Rapporteur will be gaining access to Iran. “But even if the government does not cooperate with the Rapporteur, the victims, their families, and civil society can provide much documentation and information,” she said.

Iranian rights advocates and international groups have advocated for the appointment of a Special Rapporteur on Iran since 2009, when Iranian authorities began a violent crackdown on the exercise of civil and political rights in the aftermath of the tainted June 2009 presidential election. As the situation deteriorated, including severe repression of the right to assembly coupled with a dramatic spike in executions, momentum grew to press Iran on human rights.

The civil society campaign for passage of the Resolution and for tougher UN scrutiny has involved hundreds of organizations and activists from around the world.

Thirty-eight human rights groups addressing issues in Muslim countries urged members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference to support human rights in Iran as they had with respect to Libya.

One hundred eighty women’s rights activists signed a letter to Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, urging her government to support the Resolution, which Brazil did.

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