Press Conference by International Federation for Human Rights on Situation in Iran

9 November 2010

Press Conference by International Federation for Human Rights on Situation in Iran

9 November 2010
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference by International Federation for Human Rights on Situation in Iran

Nobel Peace Prize winner from 2003 Shirin Ebadi said today that the international community should impose political sanctions and “make the world smaller” for violators of human rights, at a Headquarters press conference on the situation of human rights in Iran.

Introducing Ms. Ebadi of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) was the Federation’s Advocacy Director, Antoine Madelin, who said that the network of more than 160 organizations worldwide had come to the United Nations to sensitize members of the international community that when there was a total absence of recourse for challenging human rights violations, as in Iran, the only available recourse was through the international community itself.

Ms. Ebadi said that the situation of human rights in Iran was deteriorating daily.  Following the elections of June 2009, the number of arrests had increased and the number of executions in 2010 was very high, with 400 people having been executed so far this year.  According to information provided by Reporters without Borders, when it came to freedom of speech, Iran was last in a line of 175 countries, on level with Eritrea and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Iran also had had the world’s highest number of underage executions within the last year, she said.  Similarly, if students presented “even the slightest objection”, they could be expelled from University and thrown in prison; currently more than 70 students were incarcerated.

However, she said it was difficult to give exact figures on that and other prisoner groups, owing to the fact that the Government of Iran did not publish the number of political prisoners and actively prevented the families of prisoners from speaking about their imprisoned relatives.  The brother of one prisoner, who had wanted to speak to the media, was himself placed in prison for three months.

“When someone is executed in Iran,” she said, “the corpse is not even returned to the family.  The family is not even informed of the place of burial”.

After the revolution of 1979, corporal punishment had been introduced in Iran through practices such as stoning, cutting of the hand or lips, and crucifixion, she said.  In recent months, the sentences of three people convicted of theft had been finalized, one of whom had stolen chocolate and approximately $1,000 from a bakery.  Human rights defenders opposed such punishments, but the Government of Iran fought back very seriously.

Many human rights defenders and lawyers were also in prison, she added.  One such lawyer, Abdul Reza Tajik, had been arrested three times following the elections in June 2009.  Upon his third arrest, he had been humiliated, stripped of all his clothes, and then interrogated.  When he objected to his treatment, he was beaten and placed in solitary confinement.  When a family member tried to help by submitting a written complaint, she was put under surveillance and pursued.  Another lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh — also arrested for defending the rights of political prisoners following the elections — was placed in solitary confinement and denied visits or access to an attorney, telephone, radio, or even paper on which to write.  On 5 November, she was finally permitted to see family members, as the authorities hoped they could persuade her to end her hunger strike.

Ms. Ebadi stressed that although the people of Iran had not themselves resorted to violence, they had seen a lot of it.  Despite dire conditions, however, she did not agree with calls for military action against Iran, or for economic sanctions, as those would only worsen the human rights situation there.  Instead, she proposed “political sanctions”, by which the violators of human rights would be denied visas and any assets in foreign countries would be frozen.  Last month, the United States had announced the names of eight Iranian nationals who would not be allowed visas and whose assets, if any, would be frozen.  Of course, the number of people directly involved in human rights violations in Iran was much larger than eight — but that was “the beginning of the work”, she said, adding: “We must make the world smaller for violators of human rights”.

Responding to a question about the current sanctions imposed on Iran, she said that she did not disagree with the Security Council’s sanctions, because they dealt with military issues.  However, when it came to economic sanctions, the Government was wealthy and could meet its own needs at any price, while the needs of the people were severely impacted.  That was why it was best to impose political sanctions instead, so that people who had gained a lot of money and assets by killing and murdering people in Iran could be prevented from entering other countries, and would have their assets confiscated.

When a correspondent asked for updates on the case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, currently facing death by stoning for adultery, Mr. Ebadi said that several international campaigns were working hard to save her.  However, she added that while she appreciated the empathy felt for Ms. Ashtiani, she wished to remind the international community of others facing similar sentences.  The campaigns to help Ms. Ashtiani, therefore, should be converted into a campaign against stoning altogether and other such corporal punishments.

“Cutting off someone’s hand for theft is no better than stoning,” she said.

The Government of Iran claimed that those practices were Islamic, she said, adding that that was not the case, as many Muslim countries did not adhere to such laws.

Responding to a question about Iran’s candidacy for the Executive Board of UN Women — the inaugural election for which was set to take place tomorrow — she said that it was a “mocking situation” that a country that had not ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women could sit on the board of that entity and speak for women’s rights.   Saudi Arabia was also vying for a position.  “A board with these members will not get anywhere,” she said.

When asked how the world could be made smaller for the violators of human rights in a concrete manner, she said that because the United Nations was comprised of the representatives of different Governments, it fell to those representatives to decide.  However, because China was a Security Council member and had veto rights, one could “not expect that country to do much about a political prisoner”, she said, referring to imprisoned Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo.

She said she had a proposal for the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanethem Pillay, who was mandated to support human rights and human rights defenders.  Ms. Pillay, she said, did not have a lot of executive power, but she had symbolic power, and she should “put a large picture of Liu Xiaobo in the General Assembly Hall during meetings in order to embarrass China”.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.