Iran's human rights record condemned by United Nations

December 21, 2010
The United Nations Headquarters buildings in New York City. The UN General Assembly today confirmed a resolution that expressed “deep concern at serious ongoing and recurring human rights violations” in Iran. UN Photo by Mark Garten.

UNITED NATIONS, United States — In a vote today, the United Nations once again strongly condemned Iran for failing to live up to international human rights standards.

By a vote of 78 to 45, with 59 abstentions, the UN General Assembly confirmed a resolution that expressed “deep concern at serious ongoing and recurring human rights violations.” In more than two decades of such resolutions about Iran, the vote passed with one of the highest percentages ever.

The resolution specifically expressed concern over Iran’s “intensified crackdown on human rights defenders and reports of excessive use of force, arbitrary detentions, unfair trials and allegations of torture,” as well as its “pervasive gender inequality and violence against women,” and its discrimination against minorities, including members of the Baha'i Faith.

“The world community has clearly spoken. It is outraged at Iran’s continued and intensifying violations of human rights,” said Bani Dugal, the principal representative of the Baha'i International Community to the United Nations.

Welcoming the result, Ms. Dugal noted that the resolution documents a wide range of violations – from torture to the oppression of women to the persecution of minorities. "All of this has been going on for too long, and it is high time that Iran pays heed to the call of the international community and complies with the standards of international law,” she said.

The resolution devoted an entire paragraph to Iran’s treatment of members of the Baha'i Faith, cataloging an extensive list of recent anti-Baha'i activities. These included: “increasing evidence of efforts by the State to identify, monitor and arbitrarily detain Baha’is, preventing members of the Baha’i faith from attending university and from sustaining themselves economically, the confiscation and destruction of their property, and the vandalizing of their cemeteries…”

It also expressed concern over the recent trial and sentencing of seven Baha'i leaders, saying they were “repeatedly denied the due process of law.”

Worldwide condemnation

The UN vote has coincided with a renewed protest – from numerous governments, organizations and prominent individuals – at the persecution of Iran’s Baha’is.

In a statement dated 17 December, Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Honorable Lawrence Cannon, reiterated his country’s deep concern at the “ongoing failure of the Iranian authorities to meet their domestic and international legal obligations.”

“The Government of Canada stands firmly with the people of Iran against human rights abuses and discrimination, as well as ill treatment of women and minorities,” said Mr. Cannon.

A number of India’s prominent citizens have also recently called upon Iran to respect its minorities. Among them, former Deputy Prime Minister, L. K. Advani, appealed for justice for the seven imprisoned Baha’i leaders. “The attitude of a country and a nation towards minority religion is the touchstone of how civilized a country it is,” he said, on 17 December.

In a debate on freedom of religion in Germany's Parliament, also held on 17 December, members of Parliament spoke out on the situation of Baha'is in Iran. Christoph Strässer MP – human rights policy spokesman for the Social Democrats – noted that the Baha'i community, "ever since it was founded, has been dedicated to peace and tolerance..."

Street campaigns about the human rights situation in Iran have been held in the German cities of Frankfurt, Wiesbaden, Mainz and Taunusstein.

"We have gathered here to protest the alarming situation of Baha'is, of human rights in general and the climate of fear that exists for Baha'is, for women, for youth, for bloggers, for journalists," said Omid Nouripour, MP for Frankfurt, speaking at the event in the city, "and we raise our voices to show the world that the people of Iran need our help."

Christian Solidarity Worldwide has also called for the release of the Baha’i prisoners. “Clearly the seven Baha'i leaders are being held solely on account of their faith,” said CSW’s Advocacy Director Andrew Johnston on 10 December, “and this contravenes Iran’s international legal obligations.”

In Australia’s parliament last month, members specifically referred to Iran’s discrimination against, and failure to protect the rights of, minorities – including the Baha’i, Sufi, Baluch, and Kurdish communities - as well as the trial and sentencing of the seven Baha'i leaders.

Reports of the 10-year jail terms previously provoked a chorus of condemnation from governments around the world – including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Hungary, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. The European Union and the President of the European Parliament also joined the protest, along with numerous human rights organizations, other groups and countless individuals.

In its annual International Religious Freedom Report, published in November, the United States Department of State reported that the Iranian government’s respect for religious freedom has continued to deteriorate, creating a “threatening atmosphere for nearly all non-Shi'a religious groups, most notably for Baha'is.”

“The U.S. government has publicly condemned the treatment of the Baha'is in UN resolutions,” said the report.

The most recent United Nations resolution was put forward by 42 co-sponsors and approved in a preliminary form in November by a committee of the General Assembly, also by an overwhelming vote against Iran.

Special Report - "The Trial of the Seven Baha'i Leaders"

*The Baha'i World News Service has published a Special Report which includes articles and background information about the seven Iranian Baha'i leaders - their lives, their imprisonment, trial and sentencing - and the allegations made against them. It also offers further resources about the persecution of Iran's Baha'i community. *

The International Reaction page of the Baha'i World News service is regularly updated with responses from governments, nongovernmental organizations, and prominent individuals. The Media Reports page presents a digest of media coverage from around the world.