UN Human Rights Council appoints monitor for Iran

March 24, 2011
Participants at the 16th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland. For the first time, the Council has appointed a special investigator to monitor Iran's compliance with international human rights standards. UN Photo by Jean-Marc Ferré.

GENEVA, Switzerland — For the first time since its creation five years ago, the UN Human Rights Council has appointed a special investigator to monitor Iran's compliance with international human rights standards.

The decision, by a vote of 22 to 7 with 14 abstentions, reflects the world's growing impatience with Iran over its increasing violations of human rights.

"This vote is quite historic," said Diane Ala'i, the representative of the Baha'i International Community to the United Nations in Geneva.

"The decision today to create a new mandate to examine Iran's compliance with human rights standards marks a new stage in the Council's exercise of its responsibilities to uphold and protect the fundamental human rights of all peoples throughout the world.

"The world community has heard once too many times Iran's claims that it does not violate human rights - when, in fact, it has become among the worst offenders in the world today," said Ms. Ala'i, who noted that the resolution passed by a resounding margin, and had co-sponsors from every region of the world.

In its resolution today, the 47-member Council also called on Iran to allow the investigator, who is known as a Special Rapporteur, to visit the country. If Iran allows it, it would be the first such visit by a human rights investigator from the UN since 2005.

The resolution, which had 52 co-sponsors, including many members of the United Nations who are not currently on the Council, followed the release of a new report by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon about human rights in Iran.

That report, issued 14 March, expressed concern about a wide range of human rights violations in Iran.

"The Secretary-General has been deeply troubled by reports of increased executions, amputations, arbitrary arrest and detention, unfair trials, and possible torture and ill-treatment of human rights activists, lawyers, journalists and opposition activists," wrote Mr. Ban.

Mr. Ban's report also expressed concern about continuing reports of the persecution of minority groups in Iran. He specifically highlighted reports of persecution against Iranian Baha'is, and noted as well that members of the Arab, Armenian, Azeri, Baloch, Jewish, and Kurdish communities have also reportedly faced discrimination and persecution.

In the case of Baha'is, Mr. Ban noted that a number of Baha'is have been arrested recently, and that seven Baha'i leaders were sentenced to long prison terms after a trial last year that many felt was unjust.

"The High Commissioner for Human Rights raised their case several times in letters to and meetings with the Iranian authorities, expressing deep concern that these trials did not meet due process and fair trial requirements," said Mr. Ban, noting that the High commissioner had asked Iran to allow independent observers in to monitor the trial but the request was rejected.

Mr. Ban added that although the seven were charged with espionage and acting against national security, the High Commissioner expressed concern that the charges brought against them in fact appear to be a violation of their internationally recognized right to freedom of religion and belief, and freedom of expression and association.

Mr. Ban also noted that the UN also has been receiving reports of persecution directed against Christians.

And he said that members of the Kurdish community have continued to be executed on various national security-related charges including Mohareb.

Finally, Mr. Ban expressed concern over the fact that Iran has not allowed any UN human rights Special Rapporteurs to visit the country since 2005. He encouraged Iran to "facilitate their requested visits to the country as a matter of priority in order that they might conduct more comprehensive assessments."