UN Secretary General "deeply troubled" by developments in Iran
UNITED NATIONS, United States — For the fourth consecutive year, the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, has strongly criticized Iran's record on human rights, saying violations have "continued and intensified" over the last 12 months.
Iran has stepped up its crackdown on human rights defenders, women's rights activists and journalists, Mr. Ban said in a report released yesterday.
The Secretary General said he was "deeply troubled" by recent developments, which included a "notable increase" in the country's use of the death penalty, along with a rise in unfair trials, amputations, and the use of torture, arbitrary arrest and detention.
Mr. Ban called on the Iranian government to respect the rights of all its citizens – but noted especially the "important and constructive role the human rights lawyers and activists play in protecting human rights," encouraging Iran to "fully guarantee freedom of expression and assembly and to open up greater space for their independent work."
Restrictions on "unrecognized religious minorities," were also highlighted in the report with "serious concern" being expressed, particularly at the ongoing persecution of Iran's Baha'i community.
Iranian Baha'is face limits on access to higher education, Mr. Ban said, noting that this form of discrimination culminated this year in a government effort to shut down the informal initiative to educate young members of the Baha'i community barred from university.
"According to numerous reports, on 21 May 2011, security forces conducted raids on the homes of individuals involved in the activities of the Baha'i Institute for Higher Education and arrested 15 of its members in various cities, including Gohardasht, Isfahan, Karaj, Sari, Shiraz, Tehran and Zahedan..." he said.
Mr. Ban also discussed the fate of seven national Baha'i leaders, arrested in 2008 and sentenced to some 20 years imprisonment in 2010 – noting that their excessive sentence was upheld earlier this year.
"The High Commissioner for Human Rights has raised this case several times in letters to and meetings with the Iranian authorities, expressing deep concern that these trials did not meet the requirements of due process and fair trial," he said.
Bani Dugal, the principal representative of the Baha'i International Community to the United Nations, welcomed the report and its conclusions.
"Taken as a whole, Mr. Ban's report has once again indicted the current Iranian regime, documenting the government's wide-ranging effort to silence the growing demands of its citizenry for justice, democracy, and transparency.
"Baha'is have long suffered from the Islamic Republic's ongoing and ever-increasing inability to tolerate any viewpoint or opinion that falls outside the official script. Mr. Ban's report clearly documents the degree to which so many others – from women to journalists to lawyers – are also bearing the brunt of this oppression.
"The report also outlines Iran's refusal to cooperate with UN special rapporteurs, who have since 2005 been denied permission to visit Iran so that they can investigate the situation there.
"We hope the international community will duly take note and continue its effort to see that Iran ends the unjust persecution of its own citizens," said Ms. Dugal.
Baha'i World News Service coverage of the persecution of the Baha'is in Iran
*The Baha'i World News Service has published a Special Report which includes further articles and background information about Iran's campaign to deny higher education to Baha'is. It contains news of latest developments, a summary of the situation, feature articles, case studies and testimonials from students, resources and links. *
*Another Special Report offers 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, to actions taken against the Baha'is of Iran. *
*The Media Reports page presents a digest of media coverage from around the world. *