Since seizing office in 1979, I understand the regime in Tehran has been criticized by various United Nations bodies 53 times. The two votes to be held soon in the Third Committee, presumably under the human-dignity-for-all goals of the U.N. organization, should be the next acts of collective responsibility by both its Third Committee and the General Assembly as a whole.
A book contains the names, photos and other personal information about twenty thousand members and supporters of the main opposition to the clerical regime, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), who have been murdered by it since 1979. One of the victims was Ramin Arastafar, whose mother Mina said over this past weekend that he was tortured and killed in 1981 at the age of seventeen for participating in a demonstration in Tehran.
The late Zahra Kazemi, a Canadian of origin in Iran, attempted to photograph a student demonstration in Tehran in July, 2003. She was arrested and sent to the notorious Evin prison, where, as we now know from an escaped-from-Tehran medical doctor, she was tortured and murdered by agents of the government. The nature and extent of the treatment she received is by itself enough reason to prompt passage of the resolution in issue, sponsored by the government of Canada and 40 other countries.
Abdolreza Rajabi, a PMOI member, died under torture on October 30th of this year in Gohardasht prison. He had been in Evin prison since 2001 sentenced to death, but it was later commuted to life in prison. He was nonetheless subjected to mock executions and essentially continuous torture until the time of his death.
Mr Rajabi has two sons and a daughter living in Camp Ashraf in Iraq. Their fate and that of the approximately 4000 other PMOI members with them there, should they be expelled back to Tehran, is quite predictable. The ayatollahs’ law says that membership in the PMOI is a capital offense. According to Article 186 of the Iranian “Islamic Punishment Act” (1997), “all members and supporters” of the PMOI “who in one way or the other are effectively involved in advancing its aims, are “Mohareb”, which is to say guilty of waging war on God. Article 190 of that Act establishes that the punishment for “Mohareb” is “killing’, “hanging”, “amputation of the right hand and the left leg”, or internal exile’ A “religious judge” determines which punishment is applied.
Recently, I met with family members of some other Ashraf residents. A number of horrifying experiences were related, but four I can never forget. A woman of approximately twenty, who escaped the country a few years ago, said that about two thirds of Iran’s population is under 35, but many young people are addicted to opium, the consumption of which is encouraged by the mullahs so as to pacify them. A woman whose son was murdered was sent to prison for five years by a mullah judge, who spent approximately two minutes disposing of her case.
A grandmother lost eight family members, one of whom was thirteen at the time she was tortured, raped and murdered. Another former inmate of Evin prison told of a grandfather in Tehran, a grave digger, who committed suicide. His note to his family said that the Revolutionary Guards would bring children of 14, 15 and 16 to the cemetery where he worked. They would murder them and then force him to bury the bodies. The moral agony caused him to take his own life.
Report of the UN Secretary-General on Human Rights Situation in Iran
It is clear from the details of this report, dated October 1, 2008 (before the resolution of Canada was tabled in the Third Committee), that gross human rights violations in Iran remain systematic and widespread. The conclusions—although certainly not the report itself—are not specific as to violations, but indicate very serious continuing abuses:
78. Many areas of continuing concern for human rights in the Islamic
Republic of Iran are noted in the present report, as well as some positive steps taken by the Iranian authorities to address discriminatory laws and restrict aspects of the death penalty. The Secretary-General encourages the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to address the concerns highlighted in the report and to continue to revise national laws, particularly the new Penal Code and juvenile justice laws, to ensure compliance with international human rights standards and prevent discriminatory practices against women, ethnic and religious minorities and other minority groups. The Secretary-General notes the positive achievements of the Islamic Republic of Iran against many economic and social indicators and encourages the Government to continue to
address regional disparities in the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights, as well as discrimination against women and minorities.
79. The Secretary-General welcomes the recent steps taken by the
Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to explore cooperation on human rights and justice reform with the United Nations, including OHCHR. He encourages the Government to ratify major international human rights
treaties, in particular the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of
Discrimination against Women and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and to withdraw the general reservations it has made upon the signature and ratification of various human rights treaties, as recommended by the respective treaty bodies. The Secretary-General hopes that the Islamic Republic of Iran will finalize its long-outstanding periodic reports under human rights treaties, particularly to the Human Rights Committee and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, to allow a systematic review of progress in implementing the related obligations. The Secretary General welcomes the Government’s standing invitation to the Human Rights Council special procedures mandate holders and encourages the Government to facilitate their visits to the country
in order that they might conduct more comprehensive assessments.”
Report of the Secretary-General pursuant to paragraph 6 of resolution 1830 (2008) of the Security Council (Ashraf), dated November 6th, 2008:
45. UNAMI continued to monitor closely the situation of the People’s Mojahedin of Iran members who are living in the Ashraf camp in Diyala Governorate. They are still under the protection of the United States army following an agreement signed in 2004, but the Government of Iraq has expressed its intention to take full control of the camp in the near future. In a letter dated 15 October 2008 to the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iraq, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights urged the Government of Iraq to protect Ashraf residents from forcible deportation, expulsion or repatriation in violation of the non-refoulement principle, and to refrain from any action that would endanger their life or security. It is also important that the humanitarianism needs of the camp’s residents, including access to food and medial care, be met by those protecting the camp.
Canada’s Motion In Third Committee
The motion of Canada and other members of the Third Committee recounts a long list of systematic and continuing human rights abuses by the government of Iran and then calls for initiatives from it to:
- Stop amputations, floggings, other forms of torture and other inhuman and degrading punishments;
- End public executions and other executions done in violation of internationally recognized safeguards;
- Abolish executions of persons who were at the time of their offence under the age of 18;
- Eliminate all forms of discrimination and other human rights violations against women and girls;
- Cease discrimination and other human rights violations against religious, ethnic, linguistic and other minorities;
- Emancipate the Bahai religious community;
- Terminate the persecution of political opponents and human rights defenders, including the release from prison of political prisoners;
- Uphold due process of law and end impunity for violators of human rights; and
- Requests an update on the human rights situation in Iran from the Secretary General.
I conclude with a quote from American President-elect Obama on October1: “The Sunni awakening changed the dynamic in Iraq fundamentally. It could not have occurred unless there were some contacts and intermediaries to peel off those who are tribal leaders, regional leaders, Sunni nationalists, from a more radical, messianic brand of insurgency. Whether there are those same opportunities in Afghanistan I think should be explored…” The awakening councils in Iraq, which are achieving considerable results in terms of reconciliation and violence reduction between the Shiite and Sunni communities in Iraq, originated in Ashraf.
For the reasons indicated above, permit me to urge delegates to vote “yes” to Canada’s motion probably this coming Friday after voting “no” to Tehran’s ‘no action’ motion.