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IRAN: Will U.N. sideline human rights concerns?

September 12, 2009 |  7:23 am

Iran-pillay An Iranian American activist who obtained an advance copy of the United Nations high commissioner on human rights' statement about Iran is outraged, saying her planned remarks at a big meeting next week "fall well short" of conditions on the ground.

Trita Parsi, head of the Washington-based National Iranian American Council, said the U.N.'s top human rights montor, Navanethem Pillay (pictured at right), plans to give Iranian authorities a pass on their recent actions against dissidents and political protesters after Iran's disputed June 12 presidential election.

Here's Parsi's preview of Pillay's comments:

The recent elections in Iran and the subsequent protests over the result were a reminder of both the vitality of Iran’s civil society and political life, but also of the towering constraints that peaceful activism faces. I call on the government to release those detained for peaceful protest, to investigate reports of their ill-treatment, and to ensure respect for human rights.

Parsi said the South African's statement includes "no mention of government-sponsored violence, repression, show trials, who is responsible for those 'towering constraints.'"

He complains that Pillay plans to devote just two sentences about Iran in a nine-page speech about human rights worldwide.

"When she discusses oppression in other countries, she mentions the names of specific victims, yet she doesn’t mention the names of any Iranians," Parsi said in an e-mail to the Los Angeles Times. "The entire world knows the name of Neda Agha Soltan, but she and the many human rights defenders, lawyers and journalists in jail and on trial go unnamed."

Parsi accused Pillay of continuing to downplay the repression, in which dozens if not hundreds of protesters and prominent political activists, journalists and human rights lawyers have been arrested and held in solitary confinement, many without being charged.

A previous statement about the situation in Iran came on June 19, when Pillay's office issued a statement saying “she is concerned about reports of an increasing number of arrests, which may not be in conformity with the law, and the possible illegal use of excessive force and acts of violence by some militia members in the aftermath of the recent presidential elections held in the Islamic Republic of Iran.” 

Parsi said Iranian victims of human rights abuse need the support of the international community. 

"In an isolated country like Iran, where there are limited human rights protections and no human rights mechanisms or human rights [organization] networks at the national or regional level to address or bring attention to the plight of victims, the U.N. high commissioner’s role in spotlighting abuses becomes even more critical," he said. 

"She has failed to recognize this need," he added.

Another human rights activist said the European and American officials preparing to possibly begin negotiatons with Iran should put respect for human rights at the top of their agenda, even above Iran's controversial nuclear program. 

“These negotiations should not be interpreted as a stamp of approval of Iran’s grave human rights record,” said Hadi Ghaemi, spokesman for the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran

The absence of strong condemnation means Iranian defenders of human rights have to fight two fronts, Parsi said, "one against human rights violators and another against inattention by the international community or the U.N."

-- Los Angeles Times

Photo: Navanethem Pillay. Credit: United Nations