Posts tagged: United Nations

Free Expression Groups Call on Iran to Open Door to UN Rights Experts (Source: PEN)

By , March 12, 2010 10:36 am

A coalition of international nongovernmental organizations led by the Committee to Protect Journalists are highlighting the urgency of Kian’s case and that of other writers, journalists and publishers, noting that some 47 journalists are currently in prison in Iran – more than any other country on earth has imprisoned at any one time since 1996:

“Geneva—Organizations supporting journalists, writers and publishers in Iran have called on Tehran officials to open the door to the United Nations’ special rapporteurs on human rights, including its expert on freedom of expression, Frank la Rue.

Resisting calls here for an international investigation into post-election abuses of human rights in Iran, Tehran’s envoy Mohammad Javad Larijani told both diplomats and the media on Monday that there was a “standing invitation” for the UN’s special rapporteurs to visit Iran and investigate claims of rights abuse—only to reverse his position today.

The rapporteurs should be allowed to visit the country at the earliest opportunity, said representatives of the “Our Society Will Be a Free Society” campaign, in Geneva to observe the UN Human Rights Council’s review of Iran’s record this week…

“Mr la Rue and the other UN rapporteurs should not be prevented by the Iranian government from making their own independent assessment of the situation,” said Alexis Krikorian of the International Publishers Association. “The UN rapporteurs should go to Iran as soon as possible. Certainly we should hear their reports before the UN even starts to consider Iran’s bid to become a member of the Human Rights Council this May.”

Addressing the hearing before the 47-nation Council’s quadrennial Universal Periodic Review (UPR) procedure, Larijani said Iran was in “full compliance with the relevant international commitments it has taken on in a genuine and long-term approach to safeguard human rights.”

UN human rights experts have already voiced concerns about mass arrests and the abuse of opposition supporters, clerics, journalists, students and others, said Rohan Jayasekera of Index on Censorship, “But independent investigation on the ground is crucial.”

The Council’s working group report on Iran, which included concerns raised by diplomats and human rights groups, was adopted at noon in Geneva on Wednesday, following Iran’s grilling by other nations at the UN on Monday.

“The UN should have been able to mark Iranian New Year this year by announcing a programme of visits to Iran by its human rights rapporteurs,” said Jayasekera. “Instead today Iran repudiated its international obligations on human rights and further underlined its unsuitability for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council.”

Freedom of expression and peaceful assembly continue to be undermined by the Iranian regime and human rights defenders face an increasingly precarious situation, said six of the rapporteurs in a statement last year.

The rapporteurs questioned the legal basis for the arrests of journalists, human rights defenders, opposition supporters and demonstrators, saying it was unclear and gave rise to fears of “arbitrary detentions of individuals legitimately exercising their right to freedom of expression, opinion and assembly.”

The statement was issued by: Manuela Carmena Castrillo, Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on arbitrary detention; Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Frank la Rue, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Manfred Nowak, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; Margaret Sekaggya, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; and Santiago Corcuera, Chairperson-Rapporteur of the working group on enforced and involuntary disappearances.

The list of prisoners of conscience currently held in Iranian prisons includes some of Iran’s most distinguished journalists, some of the country’s leading bloggers, and Kian Tajbakhsh, an Iranian-American scholar sentenced in August 2009…following a mass trial of 140 activists, intellectuals, and writers accused of fomenting a “velvet revolution.”

Among the journalists are Emadeddin Baghi, also a well known author and human rights defender; Mashallah Shamsolvaezin, an award-winning editor and press freedom advocate; and Shiva Nazar Ahari, a human rights journalist who has been jailed twice in the last eight months. The Committee to Protect Journalists this month announced that the 47 journalists now in prison in Iran are more than any other country on earth has imprisoned at any one time since 1996.”

[Link to full article]

U.S., U.N. step up calls for Iran human rights (Source: U.S. State Department)

By , December 20, 2009 7:17 am

The Obama administration is praising final passage today of a United Nations resolution calling on Iran to respect human rights:

“In passing this resolution, the international community has demonstrated once again its deep concern about the deteriorating human rights situation in Iran and the government’s failure to uphold its obligations under its own constitution and international human rights law,” State Department spokesman Robert Wood said in a statement:

“The resolution, first adopted last month by the U.N. Third Committee, expresses deep concern over the brutal response of Iranian authorities to peaceful demonstrations in the wake of the June 12 election. It calls on the government of Iran to abolish torture and arbitrary imprisonment, as well as any executions carried out without due process of law. Furthermore, it calls for the end of execution of minors, as well as the use of stoning as a means of execution. The resolution also calls on Iran to release political prisoners, including those detained following the June election. Finally, the resolution calls on Iran to cooperate fully with and admit entry to the U.N. Special Rapporteur on torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance.

Those in Iran who are trying to exercise their universal rights should know that their voices are being heard.”

[Full statement]

Iran’s Turmoil Has Its Day in New York (Source: New York Times)

By , September 23, 2009 2:51 am

Jim Dwyer’s “About New York” column in The New York Times features Kian:

Say what you will for the United Nations and its General Assembly. The sidewalk diplomacy almost never disappoints, and the stakes are always high.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran is back in New York for the United Nations General Assembly. Thousands of members of the Iranian diaspora plan to demonstrate on Wednesday to protest the crushing of dissent in Tehran since June, when Mr. Ahmadinejad claimed to have been re-elected president in a landslide.

One prominent member of that diaspora will certainly not be present: Kian Tajbakhsh, a New Yorker and an Iranian-American scholar who was seized by the Iranian security forces in early July and has been confined since then without access to counsel. He has been accused of stirring up revolutionary sentiment and of being an instigator paid by sinister Western forces.

Mr. Tajbakhsh, 47, and his wife and their young daughter were planning to move to New York this fall for a visiting professorship in urban planning at Columbia University.

Instead, he remains in secret detention, surfacing only occasionally in a mass trial where the official narrative holds that all protests in Iran since June are the creations of the United States and its wealthy allies. Perhaps most remarkable to his friends is that Mr. Tajbakhsh, a secular scholar, is being tried alongside Islamist reformers.

The official indictment against him is a haze of inference and inanity: He was raised outside Iran, in London and New York; his father was a member of the shah’s government; in prison, he had to be taught how to pray, apparently having a deficit of piety in his upbringing.

More: He worked as a consultant for the Open Society Institute, which is financed by the Soros Foundation, and which the Iranians purport is a C.I.A. satellite. He subscribes to a listserv run by Gary Sick, a Middle East scholar at Columbia who is described in the indictment as a C.I.A. agent. He discussed a book with another troublemaker.

Pictures released from the mass trial last month show Mr. Tajbakhsh reading statements that are supposed to implicate him and others in the uprisings.

Another Iranian-American scholar, Haleh Esfandiari, who was held two years ago in solitary confinement for 105 days, said that she learned from the interrogations that the Iranian security forces were gripped with paranoia about popular movements that have overthrown autocratic regimes elsewhere. In this worldview, Mr. Tajbakhsh’s Western education, dual citizenship in the United States and Iran and breadth of interests would make him an obvious conduit for subversion.

“What they are doing to him and the others is really shameful,” said Ms. Esfandiari, author of “My Prison, My Home.” “The good thing about Iran is that nobody — I mean nobody in the country — believes these confessions, and no one pays attention to these trials. Any intelligent person can conclude that he’s saying these things because he is forced to.”

During her confinement in 2007, Ms. Esfandiari got to know Mr. Tajbakhsh because he was being detained under the same circumstances, on the same vague charges of stirring up trouble. She was released in August that year. A few weeks later, Mr. Tajbakhsh was freed just before President Ahmadinejad arrived in New York for the General Assembly. Part of his schedule included a talk at Columbia.

In introducing Mr. Ahmadinejad, Columbia’s president, Lee C. Bollinger, noted that Mr. Tajbakhsh, a Columbia graduate, was still being held in house arrest.

“Let me say this for the record: I call on the president today to ensure that Kian will be free to travel out of Iran as he wishes,” Mr. Bollinger said. “Let me also report today that we are extending an offer to Kian to join our faculty.”

It would be nearly a year before Mr. Tajbakhsh was able to travel freely, so he was still in Tehran in June.

“No one expected there to be this historic popular uprising,” said Pamela Kilpadi, a colleague.

Now Mr. Tajbakhsh is back in prison, and President Ahmadinejad is back in New York.

“Academics and religious scholars,” he said during his 2007 visit, “are shining torches.”

This article was quickly translated and republished in Farsi with the heading “Ahmadinejad breaks promise to Kian” (not to rearrest him):

[Link to article]

Iranian Diaspora Heads for New York to Confront Ahmadinejad (Source: New York Times)

By , September 23, 2009 2:46 am

Nazila Fathi and Robert Mackey have written about Kian’s plight in The New York Times news blog:

“When Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, rises to address the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Wednesday, protesters who claim that he holds office only because of a rigged election plan to gather in large numbers outside the building…

The detainees who were arrested after the election have been hauled into court for televised mass trials, charged with plotting a “velvet revolution” to overthrow the regime. There have been no indications that they will be released soon.

Some of those still held, like Kian Tajbakhsh, an Iranian-American scholar, and Maziar Bahari, an Iranian-Canadian filmmaker and journalist who reports for Newsweek, were apparently not involved in political activities.

Mr. Tajbakhsh, who was also arrested for three months in 2007, has been jailed since July 9. No formal charges have been brought against him, but a family member who spoke on condition of anonymity said that he has been kept in solitary confinement under watch by members of the Revolutionary Guards. When Mr. Tajbakhsh, looking frail and passive, appeared on state-run television during a mass trial of dissidents in late August, his two-year old daughter, Hasti, ran to kiss his image on the screen. His appearance led family members to fear that he is being drugged.

At least one political prisoner and the daughter of another high-profile prisoner, Mohammad Ali Abtahi, a former vice president, have confirmed that the political prisoners have been forced to take drugs — blue pills, they reported, that are said to make them less resistant and more cooperative with their interrogators…”

[Full article]

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