Wednesday, October 1, 2014

An Analysis of Ahmed Shaheed’s Record

Posted by IHRV On November - 5 - 2012

A reporter from beyond the borders
From the moment Ahmed Shaheed was designated as the “Rapporteur” of the Human Rights Council of the UN, to report on human rights conditions in Iran, it was clear that he was going to have a tough time. Generally, Iranian officials consider human rights a political tool for the western powers to meddle in the domestic affairs of Iran. They have claimed numerous times in interviews and commentaries that the US and Israel are the biggest violators of human rights in the world and they or international bodies do not need to worry about human rights violations in Iran. Using the same excuses, Ahmed Shaheed was not allowed to enter Iran and was forced to write his reports from beyond its borders with the help of first hand witnesses that have been able to leave Iran. These reports reflected the dire human rights conditions in Iran. Ahmed Shaheed, who had been appointed on August 1st, 2011, finally managed to publish his third report on October 11th, 2012. (1)
From Maldives to Iran
There were other human rights rapporteurs for Iran before Shaheed. According to Deutsche Welle, Galin Depaul and Maurice Copithorne were two human rights rapporteurs formerly serving in Iran. Galin Depaul served since 1986 to 1994 and Maurice Copithorne from 1995 to 2001. Galin Depaul was the first international figure to reveal the 1988 executions of Iranian political prisoners and since Maurice Copithorne’s tenure as rapporteur happened to overlap with the Khatami administration; he could visit many prisons and detention centers. (2)
Before his designation as the Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Iran, Shaheed was a top advisor to the prime minister of Maldives and he had served as the minister of foreign affairs for a number of years as well. He was very well-known for his efforts to promote human rights during his tenure at the ministry of foreign affairs. According to the website, during a meeting in Geneva when the Human Rights Council of the UN voted to designate a rapporteur for human rights conditions in Iran, a group of representatives of the members held six meetings to choose a rapporteur from among a pool of candidates based on their general qualifications and the characteristics of their respective countries. The group tried to choose a person who is acceptable to the Islamic Republic, so that the Islamic government would cooperate with him. So, the group decided that the choice should be a male non-westerner Muslim, and finally Ahmed Shaheed was chosen. (3)
Iran does not cooperate with Ahmed Shaheed
Ever since he was designated, Ahmed Shaheed has tried to persuade the Iranian government to cooperate with him and give him permission to travel to Iran. The website of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran reported that on his first day in office, Shaheed released a statement concerning his designation. He wrote that his hope was Iranian officials would accept his designation as prudent and legitimate so that steps towards keeping their human rights commitments could be taken and his designation could be used as an opportunity to address the concerns that had been conveyed during the previous meetings of Iranian officials and representatives of the international community. (4)
The officials of the Islamic Republic let their unwillingness for him to travel to Iran be known and showed that they were not planning to cooperate with him. Sadegh Larijani the head of the Iranian judiciary announced his opposition to accepting Ahmed Shahhed: “Our policy is not to accept rapporteurs and we believe we are one of the first countries in respecting human rights.” He also rejected the idea of human rights as a western concept and criticized the US that, “The US attacked Iraq and Afghanistan and slaughtered many people. They have claims of human rights while we have not yet forgotten Gitmo and Abugh Gharib prison.” (5)
The Iranian foreign ministry spokesman reacted by insisting that human rights is a tool in the hands of western countries who themselves have violated human rights: “Sending a human rights rapporteur to Iran is an unreasonable and political action and the Islamic Republic will not allow the human rights rapporteur in Iran.” (6)
Ahmed Shaheed reports
Iran adopted this position even though refusing to let the rapporteur travel to Iran meant disobeying the UN Human Rights Council resolutions. In the first part of his first report that was published on October 15th, 2011, he stressed the point that the resolution had asked Iran to fully cooperate with the rapporteur, give him the permission to travel to Iran and provide him with all the information needed to complete his task. He also noted that he was going to continue his work with neutrality, independence and clarity and his main effort would be to cooperate with Iran and develop impartial and detailed reporting on human rights violations in Iran. He explained his methodology and pointed out that he had been in contact with a number of human rights and civil society activists in Iran and from international organizations about the human rights conditions in Iran and a considerable amount of information obtained is compatible with the standards of the UN Human Rights Council. He also mentioned a “trend of systematic violations of fundamental human rights principals” and noted instances. (7)
Just as expected, the Iranian government protested the first report. Iranian dissidents also had their own criticisms and believed the report incomplete and had some mistakes. In February 2012, the second report which was more complete and specific was released. According to Euro News, the second report from Ahmed Shaheed was the result of his interviews with 163 witnesses and victims of human rights violations both inside and outside the country. Forty-two imprisoned journalists, 600 cases of execution in one year and 15 stoning sentences were mentioned in this report. Furthermore, the report expressed concern about the harsh sentences for attorneys, human rights activists and political and ideological prisoners such as Abdolfattah Soltani, Narges Mohammadi, Nasrin Sotoudeh, Bahareh Hedayat and Abdollah Momeni. (8)
The third and last report from Ahmed Shaheed was released in November 2012. This report paints a “deeply concerning” image of the human rights conditions in Iran and explains the human rights violations in Iran in three parts. Part one is titled “Civil and Political” rights and covers issues such as freedom of speech and information, freedom of assembly and issues of human rights activists, freedom of religion including followers of Baha’ism, Christianity and dervishes, justice according to the newly passed “Islamic Criminal Code,” due process, independence of attorneys, conditions of prisoners, torture, cruel and demeaning punishments and executions. The second part under the title “Economic, Social and Cultural Freedom” covers the right to education, economic, social and cultural development, as well as the Arab, Azeri and Kurdish communities. The last part covers “Children Rights.” At the end, Ahmed Shaheed suggests the Iranian government to “…make a functional human rights mechanism compatible with the “Paris Principle” [for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights] for investigation and compensation of human rights violations.” (1)
The government keeps condemning
On the other hand, the Iranian government keeps condemning Ahmed Shaheed. They accept none of the issues brought up in the three reports of the UN Special Rapporteur and brush them off as creations of the US. BBC Persian reports that Ali Larijani, the speaker of Majlis (parliament) criticized the new report and said it expands “a kind of international bullying.” He said the UN Secretary General has ridiculed the UN and has made the foundations of this organization unstable with his “political dance.” Mr. Larijani stated: “It is regrettable that the UN has reached the point that its rapporteur believes that the Islamic Criminal Code violates human rights.” (9)
The foreign ministry of the Islamic Republic also released a statement in reaction to Shaheed’s third report. According to ISNA news agency, the foreign ministry statement insists that while in Iran, the secretary general was informed and given the criticism about “the political and one-sided positions of Ahmed Shaheed’s report” and his violation of the regulations of the Human Rights Council in his reaction to the response of the Islamic Republic to the draft of the report. The statement also reads: “Unfortunately the report of Ahmed Shaheed consists of repetitive claims which have been responded to repeatedly. Also regrettably, the sources of his claims are the dissident groups that are the enemies of the regime, the result of which is a fraudulent report, far from the realities of Iranian society. This is why his claims are not evident and lack the necessary legal legitimacy.” (10)
In the end, the trend of responding to Ahmed Shaheed and his reports by the Islamic Republic shows that Iran has no plans for any policy change. It seems like in the future, the trend of systematic human rights violations in Iran will continue and UN officials need to find a way to force the Iranian government to cooperate with the UN Human Rights Council.
1. Ahmad Shaheed’s third report:
2. Deutsche Welle article:
9. BBC report:

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