UN to monitor human rights situation in Iran

The UN Human Rights Council's decision to appoint a Special Rapporteur to monitor and report on the deteriorating human rights situation in Iran was welcomed by Amnesty International today.

The Council voted in Geneva on Thursday, by 22 to seven for a resolution co-sponsored by 49 states that decided "to appoint a Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran."

The vote comes amid concern at mass human rights violations committed during Iran's ongoing crackdown on dissent and the country's increased use of the death penalty.

"Though this decision was long-overdue, we are delighted that the Human Rights Council has responded to the human rights situation in Iran and has heeded the call of many organizations, including Amnesty International, to create this new mechanism," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Programme.

"Given Iran's refusal to cooperate with UN thematic experts since 2005, it is essential that the international community does everything in its power to obtain the cooperation of Iran with the Special Rapporteur. We urge the Iranian authorities to cooperate fully with this mechanism, including allowing the post holder to visit the country regularly to conduct fact finding missions without hindrance."

According to official figures at least 116 people have been executed in Iran this year. Credible reports suggest that dozens more have been executed in secret. Thousands of prisoners are still on death row.

Among those executed this year were Ja'far Kazemi and Mohammad Ali Haj Aghaei, who were both detained during the six months of unrest that followed the disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in June 2009.

The Iranian government's already dire record on human rights has worsened since the 2009 unrest with the arbitrary arrest of thousands of  demonstrators along with prolonged detention without trial, unfair trials and torture and other ill-treatment of hundreds of human rights defenders, students, lawyers, journalists and political opposition activists.

The latest wave of arrests of government opponents was sparked by demonstrations called for on 14 February by opposition leaders Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi, now themselves held under house arrest, in support of the people of Egypt and Tunisia.

The last UN Special Rapporteur on Iran's mandate was not renewed in 2002.