EU’s Ashton wraps up “substantive and useful” Vienna round with Iran, as two UN reports detail worsening human rights situation
GENEVA, March 19 – As the EU’s Catherine Ashton concluded what she called “substantive and useful” nuclear talks with Iran at a 2-day session in Vienna, saying they would meet again on April 7th, world powers need to pay attention to two new UN reports on Iran that document worsening human rights violations, says Geneva-based human rights group UN Watch.
Both the report by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and the report of Ahmed Shaheed, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, are slated for endorsement by the UN Human Rights Council next week.
“When he took office, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani promised to improve on human rights, yet the UN reports, each conducted independently of the other, found the exact opposite: the regime is hanging more people, arresting more human rights defenders, and persecuting more religious minorities than ever before,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch.
“These alarming UN findings suggest that Rouhani cannot be trusted, and this has vital implications for negotiators assessing the good faith of Iran’s nuclear promises.”
UN chief’s report
In his report, which will be debated next Wednesday, March 26th, the UN chief sharply rebukes Rouhani for failing to improve human rights since taking office in August.
Despite “commendable steps,” the secretary-general said he was particularly concerned about Rouhani’s increased use of capital punishment.
“At least 500 persons are known to have been executed in 2013, including 57 in public. Those executed reportedly included 27 women and two children,” Ban said.
He also expressed concern over arbitrary detention and unfair trials, discrimination against minorities, mistreatment of political prisoners, and restrictions on freedom of expression.
Special Rapporteur’s report
In addition, following are some of the disturbing findings in UN expert Shaheed’s report:
As of January 2014, Iran was holding at least 895 “prisoners of conscience” and “political prisoners.” This includes 379 political activists, 292 religious practitioners, 92 human rights defenders, 71 civic activists, 37 journalists and netizens, and 24 student activists. (Full list of imprisoned human rights defenders.)
Iran continues to use cruel, inhumane or degrading punishment, including flogging, hanging, stoning and amputation. It executes juveniles, and uses capital punishment for crimes that do not meet the standards of international law.
As of January 2014, more than 300 members of religious minorities were in detention: 136 Baha’is, 90 Sunni Muslims, 50 Christians, 19 Dervish Muslims;
four Yarasan, two Zoroastrians, and six from other groups.
During a UNHRC debate on Shaheed’s report on Monday, the EU’s representative expressed concern over Iran’s “alarming level of executions” and “lack of an independent judiciary.”
What this means for ongoing nuclear talks
“The reports by the UN secretary-general and the special investigator on Iran corroborate each other’s findings, as well as those of recent reports by other international authorities. There is a mountain of credible evidence that calls into question Rouhani’s promise to remedy Iran’s despicable record on human rights,” said Neuer.
“The UN findings constitute a warning to the international community over the regime’s true intentions. History has shown that regimes which zealously persecute their own people also have a tendency, when given the chance, to try and do the same if not worse toward other countries.”