Friday, June 23, 2006

Tehran's Red Card to Human Rights

Nasrin Alavi, OpenDemocracy:

The United Nations inaugurated its new Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday 19 June 2006, replacing the discredited human-rights commission. It should be a historic, inclusive, optimistic moment that marks a new departure for the world body and for the cause of human rights worldwide.

But between the thought and the act falls the shadow. The launch of the new body was witnessed by two Iranian representatives whose human-rights records – even by the standards of the Islamic Republic – are infamous: justice minister Jamal Karimirad and Tehran's prosecutor-general Saeed Mortazavi.

Mortazavi was the presiding judge of the infamous Court 1410 and hailed as the "butcher of the press" for his vicious rulings against journalists and freethinkers. He is credited with the closure of more than 100 publications and the harassment and imprisonment of many writers, activists, lawyers and bloggers in recent years. Shirin Ebadi, the lawyer and Nobel laureate, has even accused Mortazavi of being present in 2003 when Iranian-Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi was tortured and killed. READ MORE

Mortazavi's arrival at the UN has rightly provoked an outcry from human-rights groups. He is undeterred. His first official meeting in Geneva was with Zimbabwe's infamous minister of justice, Patrick Chinamasa.

Mortazavi also told Iranian news-agency reporters in Geneva that the United States "should be put high on the agenda of the UN Human Rights Council" for abuses in Bagram, Guantلnamo and Abu Ghraib (he added that "nuclear technology for peaceful purposes" is a basic right of all nations).

Mortazavi comes to the United Nations concerned by "Islamophobia" and "the instrumental use of human rights by the west", arguing that the "holy concept" of human rights should be more susceptible to Islamic sensibilities.

Yet the regime that appeals to Islamic traditions is readily willing to crush such dissidents when it suits it to do so and it has imprisoned many prominent members of the Shi'a clergy such as Mohsen Kadivar, Abdollah Nouri and Mojtaba Lotfi just to name a few. It is also unique in Iran's Islamic history for having kept under house arrest a Grand Ayatollah (Montazeri). In 2004 Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, stated that the Iranian people did not go through a revolution in order to "substitute absolutist rule by the crown with one under the turban".