International Community has an Opportunity to Send Iran’s Government a Clear Message on Human Rights

January 24, 2010

The world has watched in horror as the unrelenting violence in Iran continues to unfold several months after the disputed June 12 presidential elections. Now the international community has a tremendous opportunity to send a clear message to Iranian authorities that the massive human rights violations they have perpetrated are simply unacceptable.

This opportunity is the upcoming Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Iran by the U.N. Human Rights Council (HRC) next month.  Under this process, the human rights records of all member nations of the U.N. are reviewed, on a staggered schedule, every four years. There are three sessions per year, with sixteen countries reviewed per session. This process replaces the previous Commission on Human Rights, which could decide which countries to consider, whereas in the new process, all U.N. member states are automatically reviewed. This new procedure is intended to eliminate the possibility of deciding to review certain countries for political reasons and to address the criticism of double standards which were made against the Commission.

The purpose of the UPR process is to improve the situation of human rights situation in the country reviewed; to enhance the fulfillment of each state of its human rights obligations and commitments; to share best practice in the promotion and protection of human rights among States; and to strengthen the cooperation by States with the Human Rights Council and its mechanisms.

The outcome of the UPR process will be a report approved by the HRC, and which will include recommendations for addressing compliance with human rights obligations. Amnesty International’s goal is to insure that the resulting report and recommendations are as strong as possible. The Iranian government has persistently claimed that countries with which it has historically had hostile relations, such as the United States and United Kingdom, have been orchestrating criticism of its human rights record for political purposes. A strong report endorsed by the entire HRC would be a rebuke to the Iranian government and a signal that the international community as a whole abhors its deplorable human rights abuses.

Amnesty International was one of over fifty non-governmental organizations, both inside and outside Iran, to make a formal submission to the HRC to be included in the official documentation for the UPR process. Other submissions were prepared by organizations such as the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, the Baha’i International Community, and Stop Child Executions.

Amnesty International strongly urges that as many of its recommendations be incorporated into the final report as possible. These recommendations include: the immediate cessation of executions of juvenile offenders; ending the use of incommunicado detention, solitary confinement and torture and ill-treatment in detention; and ending the executive use of force and violence by riot police and Basij paramilitaries. In Amnesty International’s comprehensive report on the post-election crackdown, Iran: Election Contested, Repression Compounded, AI also strongly urged the Iranian government to allow the U.N. Special Rapporteurs on torture and on extra-judicial, summary or arbitrary executions to conduct rigorous and independent investigations inside Iran. Both have requested permission to enter Iran and are waiting for a response from the government.

As part of the UPR process, the countries under review are invited to submit their own reports on how they have met their human rights obligations. According to its own government’s submission, Iran would appear to be a human rights paradise and the government would seem to focus all of its energies on promoting the human rights of its people. The Iran government submission correctly points out the numerous human rights protections included in Iran’s Constitution. Unfortunately, authorities have chosen to ignore those provisions, especially over the last several months when human rights violations have occurred on a massive scale. It is time for the international community to send a clear and unequivocal message to Iran’s government: Stop the cover-up and dissembling; human rights violations that shock the conscience of the world will not be tolerated.