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September 24, 2020 5:38 am

On Iran, Amnesty International Must Translate Words Into Action

avatar by Eitan Fischberger / JNS.org

Opinion

People walk near a burnt bank, after protests against increased fuel prices, in Tehran, Iran, Nov. 20, 2019. Photo: Nazanin Tabatabaee / WANA (West Asia News Agency) via Reuters.

JNS.orgA horrifying new report released by the influential NGO Amnesty International details the mass arrests, disappearances, and unlawful killings of thousands of Iranian men, women, and children as young as 10 years old by their tyrannical government since a brief uprising erupted in November 2019.

In the report, Amnesty describes in heartbreaking detail the wanton floggings, electrical shocks, and other gruesome tortures inflicted upon innocent Iranians. Just a few days ago, in a separate show of brutality, Iran executed wrestling champion Navid Akfari, who was tortured into confessing to the murder of a security guard during an anti-government protest in 2018.

Of course, for those of us paying attention, this is nothing new. The Iranian government has been oppressing its citizens for decades, though too few have taken notice. As expertly demonstrated by Dr. Majid Rafizadeh, the United Nations is also guilty of turning a blind eye to Iranian despotism.

Indeed, during its quarterly meeting on the “The Situation in the Middle East, Including the Palestinian Question,” the Security Council — the most powerful UN body — spends a wildly disproportionate amount of time bashing Israel while largely failing to address Iran.

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Amnesty International has been issuing frequent reports describing the systematic abuses occurring in Iran since the protests began, and has now petitioned the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to take action.

Amnesty, which has enjoyed consultative status at the United Nations since 1964, has boasted about the myriad of UN human rights conventions it helped pass. In fact, Professor Kerstin Martens, an expert on intergovernmental organizations and NGOs, wrote in 2006 that Amnesty’s “work at the UN has always focused on the ratification and development of legal instruments for human-rights protection.”

Specifically, its campaign on banning torture beginning in the 1970s is believed by many to be among the most successful initiatives ever undertaken by an NGO at the United Nations.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The United Nations approaches Amnesty for advice on human-rights matters, and their findings are frequently cited as sources in reports issued by the world body. Over the years, Amnesty and UN personnel have developed personal networks of informal communication through which they feed each other information that would be otherwise inaccessible.

Clearly, the organization holds enormous sway at the United Nations.

Amnesty has never been afraid of lobbying for harsh action against countries like Israel at the United Nations, for various reasons. For example, it has played a prominent role in the push for the creation of a blacklist — ordered by the UNHRC — of businesses operating outside Israel’s 1949 armistice line.

It went a step further when in 2016 it openly called for the suspension of Saudi Arabia from the UNHRC over “gross and systematic violations of human rights,” referring to executions, putting children on death row after unjust trials, and crackdown on dissenters. The new Amnesty International report concerning Iran is rife with phrases like “systematic patterns of mass arrests,” “widespread patterns of serious human rights violations,” and “unlawful killings of protesters and bystanders.”

Sound familiar?

Yet despite the bone-chilling similarities in language and accusation, in the case of Iran Amnesty has merely urged the UNHRC to establish a UN-led inquiry to ensure accountability and non-repetition. This is an alarmingly weak response when compared to its justifiable call for the suspension of the Saudis from the UNHRC. Why the meek response when the shoe is on Tehran’s foot? And why go through all the work to write an 80-page report on Iranian human-rights violations just to urge a toothless inquiry?

In its 2016 statement on Saudi Arabia, Amnesty argued that the Saudis have put the credibility of the UNHRC at stake by derailing attempts to pass resolutions condemning them. The same can be said about the UNHRC’s treatment of Iran, especially when 85% of the council lauded the regime’s human-rights record in 2019.

Surely, with all the clout that Amnesty International holds at the United Nations, it could do far better than recommending a measly inquiry. Why does it not utilize its significant influence and implore every single UN body it can access to take tangible steps against Iran in the face of its brutal crackdown? With the UN General Assembly running until September 30 and the 45th regular session of the UNHRC running until October 6, now is the time to translate their words into action.

Eitan Fischberger is an activist and veteran of the Israeli Air Force. Follow him on Twitter @EFischberger.

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