Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

Rouhani is No ‘Moderate’ on Human Rights

May 18, 2014 11:09 am 4 comments

President Hassan Rouhani. Photo: Iranian government.

The Canadian Parliament has just concluded its third Iran Accountability Week, which sounded the alarm on the fourfold threat posed by the Iranian regime – nuclear, terrorist, incitement, and – in particular – the widespread and systematic violations of the human rights of the Iranian people. Parliamentarians heard expert witness testimony on the Iranian threat – particularly the massive domestic repression. In addition, a centrepiece of Iran Accountability Week was the Global Iranian Political Prisoner Advocacy Project, wherein parliamentarians “adopted” an Iranian political prisoner not unlike the experience with taking up the case and cause of Soviet political prisoners.

This year’s Iran Accountability Week occurred at a most propitious time, as Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has been touting his commitment to “constructive engagement” with the international community, particularly in the negotiation of a comprehensive nuclear agreement. Yet, as nuclear talks resume this week, the systematic and widespread violations of human rights in Iran are being overshadowed – if not sanitized – by the preemptive international focus on the nuclear issue.

It should be recalled that when the U.S. negotiated an arms control agreement with the Soviet Union in 1975, it did not turn a blind eye to the USSR’s human rights abuses. Instead, the Helsinki Final Act linked the security, economic, and human rights “baskets,” with human rights emerging as the most transformative of the three. Negotiations with Iran should replicate this approach.

Accordingly, the ongoing nuclear negotiations should neither distract nor deflect from addressing and redressing the Iranian regime’s massive domestic repression.

The following constitutes an overview of just a few of the serious human rights abuses in Iran that continue unabated – or have even intensified – under Rouhani’s “moderate” presidency.

1. Executions

Prior to Rouhani’s rise to power, Iran had the highest per capita execution rate in the world. Yet, the alarming rate of executions has actually increased under Rouhani, with more than 650 executions having been carried out since his ascension to the Presidency in August 2013 – including twenty executions during the week of his November “charm offensive” at the United Nations – a fact largely ignored. Meanwhile, the recent execution binge has witnessed more than 250 executions carried out since the beginning of 2014 alone.

2. Political prisoners

According to the recent report by Dr. Ahmed Shaheed – the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran – there are at least 895 “prisoners of conscience” and “political prisoners” incarcerated in Iran. Among them, as described by Dr. Shaheed, are political activists, religious practitioners, human rights defenders, civic activists, student activists, journalists, and other leaders of civil society.

Although Rouhani did free a number of political prisoners in the run-up to his September appearance at the UN – including iconic human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh – the cosmetic freeing of individual prisoners should not overshadow the ongoing painful reality of the criminalization of innocence. Simply put, those that prosecute and persecute must be held to account.

As Iranian Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi put it,”Nearly all of the opposition activists in prison before Rouhani was elected are still in prison.”

3. Torture

According to Dr. Shaheed’s March 2014 report, former detainees describe being “subjected to torture or cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment and prolonged solitary confinement to coerce confessions . . . .”

His work documents the horrific treatment that Iranian prisoners endure, such as physical torture, including beating, whipping, and assault occurring in 100 percent of cases; sexual torture, including rape, molestation, and violence to genitals, occurring in 60 percent of cases; and a high prevalence of psychological and environmental torture, such as solitary confinement.

One shocking example of the rampant violence perpetrated against Iranian prisoners is the brutal raid by prison officials against Evin Prison inmates on April 17, where dozens of security officials – reportedly backed by the IRGC and Intelligence Ministry agents – used “extreme violence” during searches of cells in the notorious Ward 350, which houses political prisoners, with more than 30 detainees seriously injured.

Not only has Rouhani remained silent about these crimes, but he has promoted the head of the Iran Prisons Organization – Gholam Hossein Esmaili – to the position of Director General of the Justice Department in Tehran Province.

4. Persecution of the Baha’i

The Baha’i are routinely imprisoned for practicing their faith, and this month marks the start of their seventh year of incarceration for the group of seven Baha’i leaders, known as the Yaran. Their 20 year sentences amount to a death sentence for some owing to their advanced age.

Despite Rouhani’s professed commitment to greater tolerance of religious minorities, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has issued a fatwa calling on Iranians to avoid any interactions with members of the Baha’i faith, whom he maligned as a “deviant and misleading sect.”

In his most recent report, Dr. Shaheed expounded on the plight of the Baha’i, whom he described as being “almost exclusively prosecuted for participation in their community affairs.”

The Iranian regime’s systematic persecution of the Baha’i has also resulted in widespread religiously motivated hate crimes against them, with none of the attackers yet prosecuted or brought to justice.

5. The Persecution of Journalists and the Assault on Free Speech

Even under Rouhani, Iran continues to imprison more journalists than almost any other country.

Indeed, dozens of journalists who were arrested during the crackdown that followed the 2009 fraudulent Presidential election remain incarcerated, while the regime continues to regularly arrest journalists and bloggers, imprisoning them without charge or trial or under trumped up charges such as “propagating against the system” or “insulting the President.” More recently, the regime has shuttered five newspapers, BahrAsemanEbtekarNeshat, and Ghanoon.

In addition, many journalists report that the regime intimidates and harasses their families in an effort to pressure them into discontinuing their work, recalling that last June’s election was marked by the monitoring and censoring of internet activity, the blocking of access to opposition websites and e-mail accounts, and a roundup of members of the press.

6. Assault on the Rule of Law and the Independence of the Judiciary

There is a complete absence of judicial independence and rule of law in Iran. Indeed, the entire legal system is designed to enable and enforce the regime’s massive repression of human rights, and create a culture of impunity for its violators.

In this regard, it is outrageous that Rouhani’s appointee as Justice Minister is Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi – a man implicated in a litany of major human rights violations, including the 1988 massacre of 5,000 political prisoners.

Dr. Shaheed estimates that some 40 lawyers have been detained since 2009. Any hope that matters would improve under Rouhani has clearly been repudiated by the appointment of Pour-Mohammadi as Justice Minister, as well as Elham Aminzadeh – a long-time apologist for Iran’s human rights record – as Vice President for Legal Affairs – both case studies of impunity.

Irwin Cotler is a Member of the Canadian Parliament, Emeritus Professor of Law (McGill University), and the former Minister of Justice & Attorney General of Canada. He is co-Chair with Senator Mark Kirk of the Inter-Parliamentary Group for Human Rights in Iran and a Member of the Advisory Board of United Against a Nuclear Iran.

4 Comments

  • I doubt the God would dare show his face in Iran or the Muslim world in view of the unfettered cruelties & murders committed in His name. Human cruelties & sadism have priority and a place.

    • the regime is in gross fear,seeing the strong opposition to them,being afraid loosing control .therefore is creating an atmosphere of fear.This is nothing but fascism.

  • It certainly won’t happen on the watch of Iran’s biggest supporter, Barak Hussein Obama.

  • details, details… but the fact remains that iranians are suffering under a brutal regime which believes it is on a mission from god. the religious delusion only makes them more ruthless and vicious, since “it is god’s will”.

    it will not be persuaded to change voluntarily, so, like it or not, the only real solution to the oppression of the iranian people is regime change.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Blogs Sports Two Decades Before Cleveland’s First NBA Title, LeBron James Walked Onto a JCC Court

    Two Decades Before Cleveland’s First NBA Title, LeBron James Walked Onto a JCC Court

    JNS.org – The seed for the city of Cleveland’s first professional championship in a major sport in 52 years may have been planted at the Shaw Jewish Community Center on White Pond Drive in Akron, Ohio, nearly 20 years ago. That’s when a tall, lanky kid from Akron named LeBron James walked onto the hardwood court and changed the game of basketball forever. Coach Keith Dambrot, now the head basketball coach at the University of Akron, conducted those sessions that attracted […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs North American Studios Look to Israel for Next Animation Hit

    North American Studios Look to Israel for Next Animation Hit

    JNS.org – In 2008, Yoram Honig was a producer and director living in Jerusalem, fresh off his first international hit, when the Jerusalem Development Authority (JDA) came to him with a challenge: build a film industry from scratch in Israel’s capital. “When we started here, was nothing in Jerusalem,” he said during an interview in his office in the Talbiya neighborhood. Now, the Jerusalem Film and Television Fund, which Honig heads as an arm of the JDA, pumps 9 million shekels […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Sports Olympic Gold Medalist Gabby Douglas to Wear Leotard With Hebrew Letters in National Competition

    Olympic Gold Medalist Gabby Douglas to Wear Leotard With Hebrew Letters in National Competition

    Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas will wear a leotard bearing Hebrew lettering when she competes at the P&G Gymnastics Championships over the weekend. Douglas’ Swarovski-outlined outfit will feature the Hebrew word “Elohim,” meaning God, on its left sleeve. The Hebrew detailing honors the athlete’s “rich heritage of faith,” according to apparel manufacturer GK Elite, which produced the leotard and released a preview of it on Wednesday. The company said Douglas’ sister, Joyelle “Joy” Douglas, created the Hebrew design. The outcome of the P&G Championships will help […]

    Read more →
  • Europe Sports British World Heavyweight Champion Should Be Banned From Boxing for Sounding Like Hitler, Says Ukrainian Competitor

    British World Heavyweight Champion Should Be Banned From Boxing for Sounding Like Hitler, Says Ukrainian Competitor

    Britain’s world heavyweight champion, Taylor Fury, should be banned from boxing for making Nazi-like comments, a former world champion from the Ukraine said on Thursday, ahead of their upcoming match. “I was in shock at his statements about women, the gay community, and when he got to the Jewish people, he sounded like Hitler,” Wladimir Klitschko told British media, according to Reuters. “We cannot have a champion like that. Either he needs to be shut up or shut down in the ring, or […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Rabbi Shows Cooking Skills and Humor on Chopped

    Rabbi Shows Cooking Skills and Humor on Chopped

    Rabbi Hanoch Hecht just made television history; but, unfortunately, he couldn’t have his rugelach and eat it too. Hecht became the first rabbi to compete on the hit show “Chopped,” where contestants are forced to use four random ingredients in their recipes, and have 20-30 minutes to create an appetizer, a main course and a dessert. A contestant is eliminated after each round. Hecht, 32, said that while the dishes and utensils were new, the kitchen was not kosher, so he couldn’t taste […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Music Orthodox Entertainer Stars in Pepsi Max Commercial as New Face of Company’s Israel Campaign (VIDEO)

    Orthodox Entertainer Stars in Pepsi Max Commercial as New Face of Company’s Israel Campaign (VIDEO)

    Orthodox singer and entertainer Lipa Schmeltzer is starring in a new Pepsi Max commercial for the company’s campaign in Israel. The commercial begins with a bunch of Jewish men eating at a restaurant, when Schmeltzer walks in and tries to decide what to order. An employee at the obviously Israeli eatery offers him a variety of foods, but the entertainer in the end decides on a bottle of Pepsi. Everyone in the restaurant then joins him, drinking Pepsi Max and dancing to […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Book Reviews Jewish Author’s ‘Messy’ Draft Transforms Into Rock Star Novel on Amazon

    Jewish Author’s ‘Messy’ Draft Transforms Into Rock Star Novel on Amazon

    JNS.org – “Writing is a messy process,” says author Elizabeth Poliner. “People who don’t write fiction would be surprised to see what early drafts could look like.” But readers wouldn’t know “what a mess it was for the longest time,” as the Jewish author puts it, when reading Poliner’s critically acclaimed latest book, As Close to Us as Breathing. The volume garnered Amazon’s “Best Book” designation in March 2016 as well as rave reviews from the New York Times,W Magazine, NPR, […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Sundance Tour Features Short Film About Elderly Jewish Woman’s Decision to Eat Bacon for First Time

    Sundance Tour Features Short Film About Elderly Jewish Woman’s Decision to Eat Bacon for First Time

    The Sundance Film Festival Short Film Tour, which started on Friday in New York City, features a mini-documentary about an elderly Jewish woman whose journey away from Orthodoxy leads her to taste forbidden food for the first time in her life. In Canadian director Sol Friedman’s Bacon & God’s Wrath, Razie Brownstone talks about ending her lifelong observance of keeping kosher as her 90th birthday approaches. The recently declared atheist said the discovery of the search engine Google spurred a lapse in her Jewish faith and made her decide to […]

    Read more →