Monday, 24 October 2011
UN envoy slams Iran for human rights violations
The UN envoy given the job of looking at Iran's human rights record has made his first report and it makes for depressing reading. Ahmed Shaheed's report tells of practices that amount to torture, cruel or degrading treatment of political activists, journalists, students, artists, lawyers and environmentalists.
The UN special rapporteur's report also speaks of denial of freedom of assembly, women's rights, the rights of religious and ethnic minorities.
Ahmed Shaheed told me there were several hundred people awaiting execution in Iran, some of whom were political prisoners, and some who had committed their alleged crimes while they were children.
Ahmed Shaheed: Yes a concern is of course that minors are executed. There are at the moment 100 on death row. I don't have a ready to hand actual numbers of youth in it. But the problem is the fact that young people are also, when they were minors when they committed the crime, are put to death. And there was, as late as two weeks ago, despite urgent appeals from number of rapporteurs in relation to a young man who was going to be put to death.
Mark Colvin: Now executions are only the extreme end, how many people are in jail for political crimes in Iran do you think?
Ahmed Shaheed : It's hard to get a full estimation. The thing is it's very difficult to gather information on the actual, actual offence committed. But a very large number, several thousand actually, are facing or over the past couple of years, have faced charges that are of a political nature.
Mark Colvin: And what about torture? We hear reports that when people are in these jails they're very badly treated. What can you tell us about that?
Ahmed Shaheed: The people who I have met, I began my work in August therefore I haven't met very large numbers, but of those a lot of people report, you know, torture in detention actually designed to extract certain incriminating confessions from people who are detained.
And even beyond that there are reports of mistreatment in prison even after, of course, sentence has been passed on them. Prison conditions are really bad in Iran and one of my urgent priorities is to be able to visit prisons in Iran to get a first-hand impression of what is going on.
Mark Colvin: So what access have you had?
Ahmed Shaheed : Well so far I've had no luck and no progress in terms of being able to visit Iran. I have written to the authorities a few weeks back, last month in fact, seeking permission to visit Iran for a full-access visit in November. I've had no response to date on that.
But even if I'm not able to visit Iran, I am able to gather a substantial amount of information which points to widespread, widespread abuse of human rights, widespread abuse of, widespread mistreatment in prison. And the whole range of violations of Iran's international obligations.
Mark Colvin: Why won't they let you in?
Ahmed Shaheed : Well you see all of countries look at country rapporteurs as a punitive measure. And that may be one reason. But Iran has talked, received rapporteurs for five, for six years now. So I don't think they're especially targeting me. But there was a time when they had issued open invitations to rapporteurs and some have visited. But since 2005, there hasn't been a visit scheduled.
Mark Colvin: Do they even accept your right to carry on this investigation?
Ahmed Shaheed : Well one of the difficulties in this work is the fact that Iran has been saying that they don't recognise the legitimacy of my work or my office. They regard that the office was created out of political motivation by countries whom Iran regards to be its traditional rivals or enemies. Their view has been that the office was created out of political motivation.
Mark Colvin: So you think you might get in?
Ahmed Shaheed : Well I am optimistic of being able to get cooperation from Iran. And I am hopeful, and I will continue to lobby through various means, to persuade Iran to invite me to come in.
Mark Colvin: The UN special rapporteur on Iran, Ahmed Shaheed.
Source: ABC News
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