After all that Misplaced Effort -- Iran Batting Zero at the UN

November 28, 2011

Balloon Delivery to Iran Mission
Amnesty members deliver balloons to the Iran Mission to the UN to draw attention to its human rights abuses.

Poor Mohammad Javad Larijani has been putting so much effort into painting a happy face over Iran’s dismal human rights record, and yet the Iranian government has not succeeded in fooling the international community about its “commitment” to human rights.

Mr. Larijani, the secretary-general of Iran’s “High Council for Human Rights” had spent a good deal of time recently holding press conferences and interviews, apparently hoping that no one would notice that his honey-coated words bore no relationship to the ugly reality. However, the Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly vote on Monday to adopt a resolution soundly condemning Iran’s human rights record is the fourth slap in Iran’s face by UN entities in two months.

Amnesty International was there to greet this welcome news with a lovely gift of balloons to the Iranian government to remind them that it is time to finally pay attention to the clearly expressed will of the international community and that instead of insisting on making utterly implausible denials of the problem, the Iranian authorities should make a good faith effort to get down to the serious business of improving human rights for the long suffering people of Iran.

A delegation of Amnesty International members went to the Iran Mission to the UN in New York just as the vote on the resolution was taking place to deliver the balloons. We had hoped that they would accept the gift of the balloons in the spirit in which they were intended—as a gesture of hope that Iran will work together cooperatively with the international community and impartial human rights organizations such as Amnesty International to meet their human rights obligations.

The Amnesty visit was also part of our Azadi (Freedom in Persian) Square virtual protest campaign to express solidarity with Iranians who cannot safely and peacefully protest in their own Azadi Square in Tehran. Unfortunately, though the Amnesty delegation was able to speak briefly to representatives from the Mission, they ultimately refused to receive the balloons.

The General Assembly resolution passed by a large margin, with 86 countries in favor, 32 against, and 59 abstentions. The resolution called for cooperation with Ahmad Shaheed, the recently appointed Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, calling on him to be allowed “unfettered access to the country to carry out his mandate.” Although Mr. Larijani has maintained that Iran’s “policy is active, proactive and positive engagement with UN human rights mechanisms” the Iranian government has refused to allow Mr. Shaheed to enter Iran to carry out his research.  Iran has furthermore not allowed any UN human rights Special Rapporteurs to visit the country since 2005 and ignores the bulk of communications from them attempting to make arrangements to visit Iran.

The resolution also expresses concern about many of the human rights issues that Amnesty International and its partner organizations have raised: the high rate of executions, imprisonment of human rights defenders, human rights attorneys, and other civil society activists, torture, undue restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, persecution of religious and ethnic minorities, unfair trials, and lack of due process.

These same concerns were raised by the other recent reports issued by UN entities on Iran: the report by the UN Secretary General published on 15 September 2011,  the interim report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, published on 23 September and concluding observations of the United Nations Human Rights Committee, the body charged with overseeing implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), issued on 3 November.

These three reports and the recent General Assembly resolution are an expression of the collective judgment of the international community that the Iranian government is not meeting its obligations under international human rights law, and is not cooperating with the United Nations. Instead of sending Mr. Larijani on a public relations blitz to whitewash its human rights record, it is time for the Iranian authorities to take concrete steps  to demonstrate that they are fully committed to cooperating with the international community in improving the human rights situation in Iran and implementing the recommendations made by the UN bodies.