Growing World Pressure Over Iran’s Human Rights Record

March 28, 2011
Robin Wright
          The U.N. decision to appoint an investigator to track Iran’s human rights violations is the latest move by the international community to increase pressure on Tehran. The resolution follows a report by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in which he said he was “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.”
           The move also reflects the growing U.N. and U.S. focus on human rights abuses, expanding world attention beyond the standoff over Iran’s controversial nuclear program, which has shaped most U.N. actions since 2006. The resolution notes the Islamic Republic’s refusal to cooperate on human rights issues and calls on Tehran to allow the investigator to have full and open access during visits.
            The decision was taken by the U.N. Human Rights Council, which is based in Geneva, on March 24. The initiative was co-sponsored by the United States and Sweden. The proposal passed 22 to 7, with 14 nations abstaining. The appointment of an official rapporteur is expected in May or June.
            Iranian officials reacted swiftly and angrily to the U.N. council’s decision, while Western officials have welcomed the vote as a means of holding the Islamic Republic accountable for its actions.
Ramin Mehmanparast, Foreign Ministry spokesman
            "The passage of the anti-Iranian resolution at the U.N. Human Rights Council cannot be justified. It is politically motivated…The objective behind this resolution was to... divert attention from human rights abuses in the West, specifically in the United States…U.S. policies both in deeds and words have always been paradoxical and predicated on double standards." March 25, 2011
Hassan Norouzi, member of parliament
            “By issuing this resolution, those who claim [to be the advocates of] human rights want to deflect world public opinion from the crimes committed in Libya, Bahrain and other Islamic countries.” March 26, 2011
Seyyed Mahmoud Reza Sajjadi, U.N. Ambassador
            "U.S. soldiers kill civilians in Afghanistan and take memorial photos [over] their corpses…"[The United States has] secret detention centers in various parts of the world and humiliating and torturing detainees…The Islamic Republic of Iran has always manifested its sincere commitment to the promotion of human rights at the national and international levels."
Sa'dollah Nassiri Qeidari, member of parliament
            “Given the situation in the region and the awakening of the people of Islamic countries, hegemonic powers such as the U.S., Britain and France are trying to use such political and biased resolutions to tarnish the image of the Islamic Republic of Iran.” March 26, 2011
Western officials
Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State
            This is the first new country mandate established since the Human Rights Council was formed in 2006…Independent investigation and reporting by the Special Rapporteur will help the international community responsibly address the serious human rights abuses in Iran. It will also give voice to the many Iranians who long not only for reform, but for their government to respect their most basic of human rights and freedoms. March 24, 2011
 Tom Donilon, National Security Advisor
            The decision by the Council represents a historic milestone that reaffirms the global consensus and alarm about the dismal state of human rights in Iran. Iranian authorities are perpetrating a wide variety of abuses against a broad spectrum of Iranians, irrespective of age, gender, faith, or profession…The Iranian Government has a responsibility to protect its citizens and allow its people’s voices to be heard.  The United States will continue to speak out on behalf of all those brave Iranians struggling for their universal rights. March 24, 2011
William Hague, Britain's Foreign Secretary
            "[There has been an] an unacceptable deterioration [in human rights in Iran. The new U.N. investigator could] provide encouragement to the many Iranians who bravely continue to speak up for their rights and the rights of others…[Since the 2009 elections, Iranian authorities] have systematically sought to silence all dissenting voices, through detaining and harassing human rights activists, lawyers, journalists and most recently opposition leaders [Mir Hossein] Mousavi and [Mehdi] Karroubi." March 24, 2011 
Robin Wright, who has visited Iran regularly since 1973, is a joint fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.