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UN Rights Commission Avoids Criticizing Iran - 2002-04-22

Iran has escaped censure by the United Nations Human Rights Commission for the first time in 19 years. The commission rejected a European Union motion that would have criticized Iran for executions, torture, persecuting minorities and curbing free expression.

The U.N.'s top human rights body rejected the condemnation motion by a vote of 20-19 with 14 abstentions.

The commission also ended the work of a special human rights investigator for Iran, first appointed 19 years ago. The special investigator has reported annually on the human rights situation in Iran, although Tehran has not permitted him to visit the Islamic Republic since 1996. Now Iran will no longer face special scrutiny of its rights record.

Opponents of the censure motion included nations from Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Pakistan's ambassador to the United Nation, Mounir Akram, took issue with the European Union for repeating past criticisms of Iran. He called the motion "politically motivated, saying "this outdated approach of the EU neither generates momentum for the protection and promotion of human rights, nor does it appreciate the remarkable achievements which have been made in the Islamic Republic of Iran," he said.

Mr. Akram argued that only normal contact, dialogue and cooperation will aid the protection of human rights in Iran.

But groups such as Human Rights Watch lament that the commission let Iran get off the hook. It argues that human rights in Iran are deteriorating and points to the emergence of illegal detention centers throughout the country as one example. Human Rights Watch also says there is an alarming increase in public executions and floggings.

Loubna Freih of Human Rights Watch says there is deep concern over the Commission's decision not to renew the mandate of the U.N. special investigator on human rights in Iran. "This basically signals that a country does not need to cooperate with the Commission on Human Rights. That it eventually, once the commission membership turns in its favor, it can get away scot free," she said.

Maurice Copithorne served as the most recent investigator for Iran. He says the mistreatment of political prisoners in the country is widespread. He also accuses Iran's hardline judiciary of using physical and psychological torture on detainees.