Absence of Human Rights in talks with Tehran
On Sunday, January 26, 2014, the Elders, an independent group of former global leaders, brought together by Nelson Mandela in 2007, arrived in Tehran, Iran for a four day visit. The group hopes to engage the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) with the international community. The Elders included former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, former Finland President Martti Ahtisaari, Nobel Peace Laureate Desmond Tutu, and former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo.
The delegation’s visit comes at a recent news of surge in executions by public hangings since the start of 2014. In the first three weeks in January 74 were killed, that is one every six hours. This situation with executions was so alarming that both Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, the United Nations Special Rapporteurs on the situation of human rights in Iran, released a statement last week, and Christof Heyns, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, called on Iran to "stop the executions".
On the eve of the Elders visit, IRI authorities have reportedly executed two political prisoners of Arab origin, Hashem Shabaninejad and Hadi Rashedi on charges of “Warring against God”. Iran Human Rights1 had called for the release of the two political prisoners. Iranian human rights activists estimate that one thousand political prisoners and prisoners of conscience are currently being held in Iran. Freedom of expression and association continue to be strictly scrutinized and discouraged by government officials who refuse cooperation with UN special procedures set in place to assist the government in ending this category of human rights violations.
While in Tehran, Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said: “There can be no development without long term peace and stability and there can be no peace and stability without the rule of law and respect for human rights.” We could not agree more.
Clearly, the Elders’ visit to Iran serves as a critical opportunities to make human rights part of the conversation with IRI officials, especially now that the IRI has committed to Geneva agreement with the P5+1 in its nuclear centrifuge dismantlement. It is imperative that the Elders as well as other foreign delegations call on the IRI government to comply with existing international standards and begin cooperation with the established UN special mechanisms, including granting visitation rights for Dr. Shaheed to Iran so he may fulfill his mandate.
Most importantly, the Elders should make human rights cooperation a centerpiece of their continued engagement with Iran. Furthermore, given that “justice and human rights” is a mandate of the Elders, the delegation should have requested visit with high profile Iranian prisoners of consciousness. The delegation should have appealed to the IRI officials for unconditional release of all prisoners of consciousness, and for the regime to uphold all basic human rights standards. We hope the delegation includes our suggestions in their future plan of visit to Iran with the Iranian officials.
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