The U.N. special rapporteur on human rights for Iran says labeling Tehran as part of the axis of evil has increased the country's human rights abuses, such as floggings and executions.
Maurice Copithorne says the United States branding of Iran as part of an axis of evil has put pressure on the country's reform movement. He says the remark made by President Bush has caused a reaction by Iranians of all political stripes to rally around the flag.
Mr. Copithorne says those opposed to the hardliners' grip on power feel they must be loyal. They cannot be seen to be left out, he says, while the integrity of the regime is being challenged.
At the same time, Mr. Copithorne says that he receives regular reports from his sources that Iran's reform-minded President Mohamed Khatami is no longer considered credible with the Iranian people.
Reformist groups around President Khatami and conservatives in the Islamic Republic have been locked in a bitter political struggle during the past five years.
Mr. Copithorne, who has been barred from Iran for six years, outlined the human rights abuses taking place there. He says the mistreatment of political detainees is widespread. He accuses the judiciary, which is controlled by the country's hardliners, of carrying out these measures. "These include long periods of solitary confinement, coerced confessions, disregard for the medical condition of detainees, refusal of access for relatives and lawyers, as well commonly as psychological torture and from time to time physical torture as well," he said.
Mr. Copithorne says there has been an increase in public stonings, floggings, and executions. "There may well be as I am told stonings and executions that are not reported at all," he said. "There is a perspective by some NGOs who follow these things very closely that we are looking at only a limited part of the reality."
Iran's prison population has soared to more than 160,000, an increase of 40 percent from the previous year. He cites an unnamed human rights group that recorded 270 floggings through last October and 125 executions.
Mr. Copithorne says that trials are continuing for members of the opposition Freedom Movement accused of subversion. All but one member, Haji Bullah Peymen, has been released with bail.
Mr. Copithorne's mandate ends in May and it is still not clear whether another human rights rapporteur for Iran will be named.