Release of prisoners of conscience by Iran hailed

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran has welcomed the recent release of a number of prisoners of conscience by Tehran.

“This recent step taken by the Iranian government to release more than a dozen prisoners of conscience, including Nasrin Sotoudeh, a prominent human rights activist and lawyer, is a step in the right direction in advancing Iran’s international human rights obligations,” Ahmed Shaheed said in Geneva.

A former foreign minister of the Maldives, Mr. Shaheed was in Canada recently and told the New Canadian Media that “initiative from the diaspora is essential to pressure Iran to change its ways by increasing awareness about violations.” He interviewed 60 people during his fact-finding mission to the U.S. and Canada. These interactions along with around 500 interviews globally will be reflected in his report to the UN General Assembly in October.

Mr. Shaheed said naming and shaming countries on their human rights records is probably the only way of correcting the situation in Iran as there are no enforcement mechanisms. “Iran sees itself as a leader of the South and is very sensitive to criticism. It cares and therein lays hope.”

 Among those released last week were Mahboubeh Karami, human rights activist and member of the One Million Signatures Campaign, and Jila Karamzadeh-Makvandi, supporter of the Mourning Mothers of Laleh Park.

Mr. Shaheed called on the Iranian authorities to release hundreds of other prisoners detained “solely for exercising their rights to freedoms of expression, association and assembly.” These include Abdolfattah Soltani and Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, who are currently serving sentences for charges that are believed to be related to their work as human rights defenders.  

The UN official expressed hope that there will be opportunities for dialogue with the new administration of President Hassan Rouhani and reiterated his continued interest in visiting Iran. Iran has turned down all his requests, including the ones made after Mr. Rouhani became president, due to what it says is his biased reporting.

“As long as this trend of unjust reports has not come to a halt, there will be no ground for Ahmad Shaheed’s visit to Iran,” Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Araqchi said in late August. “We unfortunately do not consider Ahmed Shaheed an impartial rapporteur.”

Araqchi confirmed that Mr. Shaheed has sent two letters to Mr. Rouhani requesting a travel to Iran. Tehran insists that the appointment of a UN special rapporteur on Iran is a selective, politically-motivated and unacceptable move. – New Canadian Media