Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Iran Getting Away With Murder.. Again?

(RSF/IFEX) - 15 February 2010 - The United Nations Human Rights Council is to review the situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran on 15 February 2010. Until now, Iran has escaped any kind of sanction since the Council's creation in March 2006. A firm decision by the international community, including China and the countries of the Islamic Conference, would help to induce Iran to respect its human rights undertakings.

When Iran was the first country to be reviewed by the Council in March 2007, the debate took place behind closed doors and the files were quickly classified after much bargaining among the various countries present. By using ideological and regionalist arguments with its "neighbours and friends," Iran finally emerged unscathed.

Since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's disputed reelection on 12 June 2009, 29 newspapers have been closed, more than 130 journalists have been arrested and more than 60 have been forced to leave the country. This is unprecedented since the Islamic Republic of Iran's creation.

Iran is now the world's biggest prison for the media with more than 80 journalists and netizens currently detained (48 journalists, 2 media assistants, 18 netizens, 7 other arrests announced by the intelligence ministry and 8 under investigation).

"The countries that say nothing about the bloody crackdown that has been taking place in Iran for the past eight months are accomplices to these crimes," Reporters Without Borders said. "When the UN Human Rights Council conducts its Universal Periodic Review of Iran, it must show that it is up to the task. Its credibility must not be eroded yet again."

The press freedom organisation added: "The Council must demand the release of all the political prisoners, including the journalists, and must ensure that the Iranian government respects the right to freedom of expression in practice."

Since 2000, several UN special rapporteurs have formulated criticisms and recommendations regarding respect for human rights in Iran.

Following a visit to Iran from 15 to 27 February 2004, Louis Joinet, the head of the working group on arbitrary detention, published a damning report on the deterioration in the situation of human rights, including freedom of expression. He noted that solitary confinement for very long periods was widely used in Iran's prisons and could be regarded as a "prison within prison," one that lent itself to grave abuses. No action was even taken on Joinet's recommendations.

Ambeyi Ligabo, the special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, urged Iran in January 2004 to bring its judicial procedures into line with international standards and to adopt a human rights charter. In particular, he said revolutionary courts should no longer try crimes of opinion and he called for the abolition of prison sentences for crimes of opinion and press offences.

The Islamic Republic has just been celebrating its 31st anniversary but its press freedom record during the past 31 years has been appalling. Several thousand newspapers have been closed since February 1979, hundreds of journalists have been arrested, hundreds have been sentenced to long jail terms and dozens have been summarily executed or murdered.

Since June 2009, the crackdown on criticism of the regime's political and religious institutions has created a climate of terror leading to self-censorship and the flight of many journalists into exile. When journalists are arrested, their most fundamental rights are flouted and they are often subjected to long spells of being held incommunicado or in solitary confinement.

These periods of being held incommunicado can be regarded as forced disappearances and crimes against humanity and constitute violations of international law.

"The international community must now turn its words into actions," Reporters Without Borders said, calling for the Iranian government to be censured for its serious human rights violations and calling for UN special rapporteurs to be sent to Iran as matter of urgency.

For more information:
Reporters Without Borders
47, rue Vivienne
75002 Paris
rsf (@) rsf.org
Phone: +33 1 44 83 84 84
Fax: +33 1 45 23 11 51
Reporters Without Borders

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