Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Human Rights Inspectors Awaiting Permission to Enter Iran

Interview with Shirin Ebadi - 2008.06.19

Nobel Laurette, attorney and human rights activist Shirin Ebadi recently discussed instances of ‎human rights violations in Iran at a seminar entitled, "Challenges of Human Rights Defenders in ‎Iran," condemning threats of military action and the Islamic Republic's refusal to allow United ‎Nations human rights inspectors to visit the country. Below is the text of this interview. ‎

Rooz (R): What particular instances of human rights violations in Iran did you discuss in ‎Geneva?‎

Shirin Ebadi (SE): Among the issues I discussed was the execution of minors (under 18 years) ‎in Iran. It is unfortunate that only three countries in the world, including Iran, have the death ‎penalty for minors. Another issue that was discussed by Dr. Lahiji was the death penalty in ‎general. Unfortunately, Iran has the second highest percentage of executions in the world. ‎Another speaker, Mrs. Mohammadi also spoke about the condition of workers and teachers and ‎their rights. In the end I noted that Mr. Abdolfattah Soltani had planned to attend the meeting ‎but could not because even though he had been cleared of all the charges against him, his ban on ‎leaving the country remained. ‎

R: What is the status of United Nations human rights inspectors visiting Iran? Will these ‎inspectors be able to travel to Iran in preparation for their report? ‎

SE: The government has not issued entry visas for UN’s human rights inspectors. For that ‎reason, Iran's name appears next to Turkmenistan and Burma, as countries that have not granted ‎entry visas to human rights inspectors. Pursuant to a decision that was issued at the U.N. ‎General Assembly last year, the U.N. Secretary General has been tasked to prepare a report on ‎human rights conditions in Iran for the upcoming General Assembly meeting in New York in ‎September. It is however impossible to prepare this report without human rights inspectors ‎physically visiting Iran. All participants in the meeting requested that the Iranian government ‎allow human rights inspectors to enter Iran. ‎

R: When was the last time that these inspectors visited Iran? ‎

SE: A few years ago, during Mr. Khatami's administration inspectors investigating rogue arrest ‎cases came to Iran and visited Evin Prison, along with the freedom of speech and women's rights ‎special inspectors. ‎

R: What are the repercussions of the decision not to allow human rights inspectors to enter Iran?

SE: There certainly aren't good repercussions. When a country does not allow inspections, it is ‎interpreted that it has something to hide. ‎

R: In your latest trip to Europe, you attended the Global Media Forum in Bonn. What was the ‎purpose of the forum and what issues were discussed? ‎

SE: This forum was held at the invitation of Deutsche Welle radio in the city of Bonn and was ‎attended by eight hundred editors and reporters from across the globe. I was the keynote speaker ‎and spoke about freedom of speech and different aspects of censorship.‎

R: After that you traveled to London where you discussed various topics related to conflicts in ‎the Middle East. What programs did you pursue on this trip?‎

SE: The trip to London was to unveil the book "Refugee Rights in Iran," which was written and ‎published in Farsi and was recently translated into English by Ms. Banafshe Keynoush and ‎published with the assistance of the U.N. High Commission for Refugees. I also had a speech in ‎London on the situation in the Middle East where I discussed the reasons behind the unrest in the ‎region. At the end of that discussion, I opposed not only military strikes against Iran, but also ‎threats of military action and noted that, although human rights and democracy conditions in Iran ‎were very poor, it is the responsibility of us Iranians, and not foreign soldiers, to change this. ‎Human rights and democracy can flourish only in peace and calm. In a country such as Iraq, it is ‎useless to speak of freedom of speech and expression because people are searching for a place to ‎shelter themselves. ‎


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