Open letter 5: To Mary Robinson, UN High Commissioner of Human RightsWritten by Jade in 3 April 01
Date: April 3, 2001
Our Reference: 163 – M – 50
Mrs. Mary Robinson
High Commissioner for Human Rights
Situation of Human Rights in Iran
Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, Mr. Ali Khorram’s call on the UN to recognise Islamic Republic’s improved record on Human Rights and to drop it from the agenda of the current annual meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Commission prompted us to write this letter.
Madam, the Commission Resolution 1984/54 of 14 March 1984 has meant the annual endorsement of the Commission’s decision to extend the mandate of the Special Representative of the Commission on the situation of Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran and submission of interim reports to the General Assembly and Commission session. On 18 October 2000, the last interim report caused Mr. Asefi, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman to condemn the report as ‘an interference’ and ‘one sided without considering realities.’ However, Mr. Khorram’s statement yesterday concerning the improvements in Iran is a clear admission of the past violations of Human Rights in the Islamic Republic.
In assessing this request, relying only on UN’s own meetings and reports, we would like to draw your attention to the following points most of which have been raised at the current session on the 29 March 2001 by Maurice Copithorne, Special Representative on the situation of Human Rights in Iran (report E/CN.4/2001/39), Fauzzia Assaad of International PEN, David A Harris of American Jewish Committee, Jose Nndjemoti of International Federation of Human Rights League, and Techeste Ahderom of Baha’i International:
FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION
- Freedom of Expression – (E/CN.4/2001/39 pages 5, 6, 7 section II / A) Islamic Republic’s record on freedom of expression worsened during 2000. It remains a central issue in the struggle between hard-liners and political reformers. By the end of year 2000 more than 30 independent newspapers and journals were ordered closed without hearings. Charges ranged from reporting on the state of the Islamic Republic’s problematic policies on economy, politics to moral and financial corruption, and social and cultural issues. Censorship of academics, books, papers and film scripts are matter of course in an attempt to purge persons alleged to fight against the sanctities of Islamic system.
- Imprisonment and torture of journalists – The arbitrary arrests and detention of journalist as well as other writers, intellectuals and dissidents carried on during 2000. Reporters without Borders called Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, one of the twenty-two most dangerous predators of press freedom ever recorded by them.
- Students (E/CN.4/2001/39 pages 7, 8 section II / B) – The right to free expression, peaceful assembly and association is still amongst the worst violations of human rights and civil liberties in the Islamic Republic. The correct number of students still held in detention and prison since the July 1999 demonstrations have still not been determined. According to student bodies in Iran, a number of students have disappeared and those in detention undergo torture. The students are held in prison while the instigators of the violence and those in charge have been exonerated and remain at large.
THE STATUS OF WOMEN
- (E/CN.4/2001/39 pages 8, 9 Section III.) Despite Mr. Khorram’s insistence that women’s rights had improved in Islamic Republic of Iran, violence against women as reported in the Human Development Report of Iran, 1999 has not improved. There has been little if any change in the systematic discrimination facing Iranian women.
- (E/CN.4/2001/39 pages 9 – 14 Section IV. A, B, C, D, F & G) In the last year the arbitrary arrest and detention of two of the prominent Iranian women activists Mehrangiz Kar, and Shahla Lahiji, as well as cleric Hojatoleslam Youssefi Eshkevari and journalist Akbar Ganji for expressing their opinions to name a few amongst numerous other intellectual, journalist and dissidents, yet again drew attention to the unfair and unjust Judicial System of the Islamic Republic. This in itself requires a separate report and assessment; suffice to ask that is the Judicial System exclusively owned and run by the hard-liners?
ETHNIC AND RELIGIOUS MINORITIES
- (E.CN.4/2001/39 pages 13 Section IV. E; pages 14 – 18 Section V. A, B & C) Systematic and regular persecution of religious and ethnic minorities has not improved. The Islamic Republic should declare the number of people arrested, held in detention under torture and executed on charges relating to ethnicity and religious beliefs. What if any improvements have been made while the constitution remains unamended?
SOCIAL AND POLITICAL FREEDOM
- (E.CN.4/2001/39 pages 18 – 21 Section VI. A, B; pages 20 – 21 Section VII. ) As recent as 11 March 2001, 21 liberal-minded activists were arrested at a meeting in Tehran and none of their charges are clear. According to their families 12 of them, remain in solitary confinement detention. This is while numerous other intellectuals, dissidents remain in detention, while the issues of disappearances, and serial killings seem to have been forgotten.
- (E.CN.4/2001/39 pages 20 – 21 Section VII) Despite large numbers of voters, people participation must not be mistaken with improvement or progress. It is a clear sign of dissatisfaction and the only form of safe protest. Candidates for election have to be vetted and choice is limited to those accepted by the Council of Guardians. Once elected even peoples’ representatives are powerless to exercise their democratic right. As was witnessed during August 2000 Ayatollah Khamenei, the Supreme Leader, intervened in a parliamentary debate on press law and stopped the democratic process. This bill was later reintroduced only to be banned by the Council of Guardians for being un-Islamic. Members of Majlis do not dare to express their opinions since they have no immunity. The latest victim is Mrs. Fatemeh Haghighatjo who was arrested in March 2001. Her hearing is pending
IMMIGRATION AND ASYLUM SEEKING
- (E.CN.4/2001/39 pages 23 Section VIII. A4) Immigration and asylum seeking by Iranians has increased greatly in the last three and a half years. Despite press describing the main motivation to be economic, many have skills sorely needed by Iran. Foreign Embassies in Iran record highest numbers of immigration applications while in Britain alone the number of asylum application rose form 585 in 1997 when President Khatami took office to 5170 in year 2000. This pattern is repeated in many other countries.
Madam, in conclusion and in the light of the above points ACI would like to respectfully ask your office to request from the Government of the Islamic Republic to provide the Commission and the General Assembly with satisfactory replies. Finally, to explain that if the Islamic Republic enjoys good and improved Human Rights record why it has refused to extend an invitation to UN’s Special Representative since 1996.
Dr Hossein Ladjevardi
President, Association des Chercheurs Iraniens (ACI)
cc. Mr. Kofi Anan