Wednesday, March 28, 2007
UN: Rights Council Fails Victims in Iran, UzbekistanHUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
UN: Rights Council Fails Victims in Iran, Uzbekistan
Rights Supporters Help End Scrutiny of Repressive Regimes
(Geneva, March 27, 2006) ? The UN Human Rights Council yesterday turned a blind eye to abuses in two among the world?s most repressive countries when it decided to end its scrutiny of Iran and Uzbekistan, Human Rights Watch said today.?The Human Rights Council decision sends exactly the wrong signals to abusive governments around the world,? said Peggy Hicks, global advocacy director of Human Rights Watch. ?The council?s action amounts to an endorsement of crackdowns on human rights in Iran and Uzbekistan. It shows utter disregard for the human rights activists who are struggling in these countries.? Iran and Uzbekistan had both been subject to council monitoring under a confidential procedure known as 1503 (after the resolution that created it). Human Rights Watch and other groups had long argued that severe human rights abuses and government intransigence in both countries demanded an effective council response, including that it make public its scrutiny of both situations. The human rights situations in Uzbekistan and Iran have significantly deteriorated in the past year. But instead of elevating its scrutiny of those two countries, the council decided to drop monitoring of both situations altogether. Twenty-five of the council?s 47 members favored ending scrutiny of both Uzbekistan and Iran. Among the 25 states are many that have consistently aimed to shield abusive governments from criticism. But in this case they were joined by virtually the entire Africa group, including Gabon, Ghana, Mali, Mauritius, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Zambia, which had previously supported human rights protections. Surprisingly, Brazil, Ecuador, Japan and South Korea abstained on both votes. Mexico, Switzerland and Cameroon abstained on the decision to discontinue consideration of Iran, while voting to maintain consideration of Uzbekistan. Ukraine abstained on Uzbekistan and voted to keep scrutiny of Iran. The number of publicly known executions by Iran grew by more than 80 percent last year to 177, and Iran leads the world in the execution of juveniles. These executions often follow secret trials that fail to meet minimum international standards. For example, in July 2006, an Iranian court sentenced 10 men to death following a one-day trial, all of whom have since been executed. The authorities also intensified their harassment of human rights defenders and lawyers in 2006, including declaring illegal the Center for Defense of Human Rights, led by Shirin Ebadi, the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner. Iranians detained for peaceful expression of political views have been subjected to torture and ill-treatment, and two prisoners held for their political beliefs died in prison under suspicious circumstances in 2006. In Uzbekistan, the government continues to deny accountability for the 2005 massacre in Andijan in which security forces killed hundreds of mostly unarmed protesters, and is conducting in a fierce crackdown on civil society. Since the Andijan massacre, it has imprisoned at least 15 human rights defenders on politically motivated charges, with two new arrests just since January. Torture remains rampant, with the government having failed to take any meaningful steps to implement the 2003 recommendations of the UN special rapporteur on torture. Authorities steadfastly refuse to grant access to the country for any of the UN experts who have made long-standing requests for access, including the independent expert appointed under the 1503 procedure. The government has rejected any concerns expressed about its human rights record as unfounded, and has gone to great lengths to mislead the international community about its human rights record. ?States that voted yes or abstained on the council?s decisions to drop scrutiny of Uzbekistan and Iran have a lot of explaining to do,? said Hicks. ?They must speak out now about abuses in Iran and Uzbekistan, and endorse further action by the council to address the worsening situation in both countries.? For broadcast-quality audio commentaries on the Human Rights Council by Human Rights Watch experts, please see the below interviews.
?Free expression, the treatment of juveniles, and the rights of human rights defenders in Iran? Before traveling to Geneva for the fourth session of the UN Human Rights Council, Human Rights Watch?s Iran researcher Hadi Ghaemi expressed hopes that the council?s agenda would prominently feature Iran. The council met in confidential proceedings last week to discuss the Iranian government?s human rights abuses, but decided against considering them any further. Emma Daly, press director at Human Rights Watch, spoke with Ghaemi on this and other concerns.
?Uzbekistan: a country where abuses have reached crisis levels? The Human Rights Council has decided to end scrutiny of Uzbekistan?s human rights record. Prior to a trip to Geneva last week to advocate that the council elevate consideration of Uzbekistan by making its deliberations public, Europe and Central Asia Advocacy Director Veronika Szente Goldston described to Emma Daly how a continued crackdown in the country has actively targeted human rights defenders and politically active citizens. For additional background on the Human Rights Council, click here.
Audio Commentary: Iran at the HRCAudio Clip, March 12, 2007
Audio Commentary: Uzbekistan at the HRCAudio Clip, March 16, 2007
Human Rights Council: Address Abuses in 26 CountriesPress Release, March 12, 2007
More of Human Rights Watch's work on UzbekistanThematic Page, March 27, 2007
More of Human Rights Watch's work on IranPress Release, March 27, 2007
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Sunday, March 11, 2007
CFR: •Timeline: U.S.-Iran ContactsAuthor: Lionel Beehner, Staff Writer
March 9, 2007
U.S.-Iranian relations after the 1979 Islamic Revolution have been sporadic and marred by mutual distrust and debacles like the Iran-Contra affair. Iran's alleged support for terrorists, lingering resentment over the Iranian hostage crisis as well as America's 1953 overthrow of the Iranian government and installation of the shah, and Iran's nuclear program have cast a long shadow over any efforts at direct talks. But with U.S. envoys set to sit down with their Iranian counterparts during a regional conference on Iraq, there is a fresh hope among some American foreign policymakers that this may mark the beginning of, if not a beautiful new friendship, then at least an era of mutual cooperation. There have been a handful of attempts and near-attempts from both sides at striking a dialogue in both bilateral and multilateral forums on a number of issues.
Here's a look at post-1979 U.S.-Iranian official contacts:
1979-1980: Hostage Crisis
There were talks between the Carter administration and Iran (via then-Secretary of State Warren Christopher and Algerian emissaries) to secure the release of the fifty-two American hostages in the American diplomatic mission in Tehran. To ratchet up pressure, the United States suspended oil imports from Iran and froze billions of dollars in Iranian assets. The result was the 1981 Algiers Accords, which led to the hostages' release and U.S. promises of nonintervention in Iranian politics.
Secret contacts between the United States and Iran took place in the context of a complex three-way deal aimed at freeing American hostages held by pro-Iranian Hezbollah guerillas in Lebanon. The “Iran-Contra affair,” as the episode became known, involved the delivery via Israel of American-made anti-tank missiles, spare parts for F-14 warplanes, and other weapons. In return, Iran would use its influence in Lebanon and funnel money to the anti-Communist Contra guerillas fighting the leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua, an arrangement found later to have violated a congressional ban—the Boland amendment—on support for the Contras. Once this complicated operation was made public in the United States, it prompted a series of investigations—most notably the Tower Commission—which found a number of senior Reagan officials (but not the president) guilty of felonies.
1988: Tensions in the Persian Gulf
U.S. warships struck a number of oil platforms in the Persian Gulf near the Strait of Hormuz in response to a mine attack against the USS Samuel B. Roberts, an American frigate. A few months earlier the U.S. Navy accidentally shot down an Iranian commercial jet carrying 290 passengers and crew. The American government mistook the plane for a military fighter jet but refused to apologize or admit any wrongdoing.
1995: Economic Sanctions
The Clinton administration imposed sanctions prohibiting American companies and their foreign subsidiaries from doing business with Iran, in addition to any financing or development of its oil and gas sector. The following year, the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA) imposed an embargo against non-American companies investing more than $20 million per year in Iran's oil and gas sector.
1998: Hopes for New Ties
Shortly after taking office, Iran's new reformist president, Mohammed Khatami, called for a “dialogue among civilizations” on CNN, raising hopes of a thaw in U.S.-Iranian relations.
2000: A U.S. Apology
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright delivered a speech on March 17 apologizing for America's role in the 1953 overthrow of Mohammed Mossadeq (a democratically elected prime minister who threatened to nationalize Iran's oil fields) and acknowledged the coup, which installed the shah, “was clearly a setback for Iran's political development.” The Clinton administration partially lifted sanctions on Persian rugs, pistachios, and caviar (but not oil and gas). Because Albright's speech ended with a hectoring of Iran's domestic and foreign policies, the theocratic regime in Tehran responded with a denunciation of the goodwill gesture.
CFR's Ray Takeyh writes that Albright's speech was more than a symbolic gesture and constituted a real change in American behavior but that it was “too little, and more important, too late.” He says the rapprochement with Iran should have come immediately after the 1997 election of Khatami. Kenneth Pollack of the Brookings Institution writes in The Persian Puzzle that Albright's use of the phrase “unelected hands,” referring to where power rests in Iran, was what set off the Supreme Leader and prompted his confrontational response.
Later that September, Albright and President Clinton were present at the UN's Millennium Summit and sat in the same room as President Khatami as he addressed the General Assembly. Albright later met with Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi as part of the Six-Plus-Two regional talks on Afghanistan. Also present were envoys from China, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Russia. The talks marked the highest diplomatic contact between the United States and Iran since the 1979 hostage crisis.
2001: Post-9/11 Cooperation on Afghanistan
Like nearly all world leaders, Ayatollah Khamenei condemned the attacks of 9/11. After the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan toppled the Taliban government, American and Iranian diplomats met together in Bonn, with a handful of representatives from other UN members, to form a new government and constitution for Kabul. “None was more [helpful] than the Iranians,” said James Dobbins, the U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan at the time, writing in the Washington Post. “The original version of the Bonn agreement ... neglected to mention either democracy or the war on terrorism. It was the Iranian representative who spotted these omissions and successfully urged that the newly emerging Afghan government be required to commit to both.”
Iran also cooperated with the United Nations to repatriate nearly one million Afghan refugees residing on its soil and—working with United States, Russia, and India—provided support to the Northern Alliance. Flynt Leverett of the Brookings Institution tells CFR.org's Bernard Gwertzman, “I think at least some Iranian officials were hoping could get leveraged into a broader strategic dialogue, but that channel was effectively foreclosed when President Bush in his 2002 State of the Union address labeled Iran as part of the ‘Axis of Evil.’”
2003: Iran's Overture
An overture from Iran for comprehensive bilateral talks, reportedly signed off at the highest levels of government, was offered to U.S. officials in May shortly after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Some experts say the proposal, conveyed via a Swiss emissary, amounted to a “grand bargain” that would have included offers of negotiations over Iran's support for terrorist organizations and recognizing Israel's right to exist. During congressional hearings last month, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she did not “remember ever seeing any such thing” as national security adviser, her position at the time of the overture. But former Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage recently told Newsweek that it appeared at the time that the Iranians “were trying to put too much on the table” for serious negotiations to occur.
2004: Powell the Lame Duck
In November, outgoing Secretary of State Colin Powell met with Iran's foreign minister, Kamal Kharrazi, at an international conference on Iraq at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. Nothing of substance was reportedly discussed as Powell was seen by the Iranians as a lame duck with no real power. Powell predicted then that normal U.S.-Iranian relations would be restored “in due course.”
2006: Ahmadinejad's Letter
Last May, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sent President Bush a rambling eighteen-page letter—the first of its kind from an Iranian president to an American leader since 1979—which was not treated by U.S. officials as a serious overture warranting a response. The letter accuses Bush of committing untold atrocities in Iraq and invoking his Christian heritage to change course there. It also dipped into conspiracy theories, including suggestions that the U.S. government was withholding details about 9/11. Earlier in the year, there was talk of direct negotiations between Iran and the United States on the issue of Iraq, at the behest of U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad, but the proposal was shelved for unclear reasons.
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Monday, March 05, 2007
URI: Military Action Will be the End Of the Democratic Movement in Iranwww.iranrepublic.org
March 5, 2007
Military Action Will be the End
Of the Democratic Movement in Iran
The current escalation of conflict between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the United States is a serious cause for concern. It is bringing the two countries closer to a potential military confrontation, whether by accident or design. Although the recent announcement that Iran will join other countries in a regional conference to discuss the security crisis in Iraq is a good step toward deescalating these tensions, we believe it is only the first step.
United Republicans of Iran is a political organization whose members are mainly exiled activists living in the West. Although we are aware that the foreign policy of Iran has caused extreme detriment to the economic, political and social interests of the Iranian people, we stand firmly in support of the national interests of Iran and its citizens and we declare our strongest opposition to any foreign military intervention in Iran by United States, Israel, or their allies. It is our firmly-held opinion that military action against Iran will create ghastly long-term dynamics in the region, have irreparable and detrimental consequences to the stability of the region, and destroy all prospects for promotion of democracy in Iran and the region. Moreover, it will give an excuse to the Islamic Republic of Iran for increasing its oppression of the freedom movement inside Iran.
We firmly support the sovereignty of Iran as a nation, the plight of Iranians for democracy and human rights through peaceful means, and the advancement of the institutions of civil society in Iran. A military confrontation with Iran not only impacts American national interests throughout the world as well as in the region, it can only achieve widespread destruction of economic, educational, and cultural infrastructures in Iran. It will also cost many lives on all sides.
A way forward should be found through serious and genuine dialogue. However, western countries should not lose sight of the abuse of human rights by the Iranian government. Any negotiations that exclude this clause from the table will reinforce the attempts of the government of Iran to annihilate the growing discontent of civil society forces in the country.
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Sunday, March 04, 2007
IRAN: Imprisoned Women Must be Released ImmediatelyUnited Republicans of Iran
March 4, 2007
Imprisoned Women Must be Released Immediately
United Republicans of Iran calls for an immediate and unconditional release of women activist arrested by the Islamic Republic of Iran.
These women were attacked and arrested while holding a peaceful vigil in front of Tehran’s Revolutionary Court, protesting a recent crackdown on their activities and summoning their leaders before the courts.
Discriminatory laws of the Islamic Republic have made the brave women of Iran a second class citizen.
Since the revolution of 1979 in Iran the women have been at the forefront of the civil and democratic movement. They had waged a campaign to collect one million signatures to force the Iranian Government to change the laws.
URI calls upon all freedom-loving people of the world to contact the Iranian Embassies in their country condemning this barbaric attack and demand for an immediate release of the women.