Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

U.N. Investigator Reports Torture and Repression in Iran

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

U.N. Investigator Reports Torture and Repression in Iran

Article excerpt

With presidential elections due to take place in June, the official found that Iran has cracked down on journalists, rights activists and lawyers defending politically sensitive cases.

With presidential elections approaching in June, Iran has cracked down on journalists, rights activists and lawyers, apparently in a bid to stifle dissent, according to a U.N. investigator. He also said that the judicial authorities in Iran had tortured some Iranians for contacting him.

Iran rejected the assertions by the investigator, Ahmed Shaheed, calling them unfounded propaganda made under pressure of the West to malign the country. Iranian officials have issued similar rejoinders to the reports of Mr. Shaheed, a former foreign minister of the Maldives, since he was appointed to the role after the repression of anti-government demonstrations over the disputed Iranian presidential elections of 2009.

"The human rights situation in Iran has been worsening, is continuing to worsen," said Mr. Shaheed, whose official title is U.N. special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Speaking to reporters Tuesday after briefing the U.N. Human Rights Council, he said, "I characterize the situation as one of widespread violations that are systemic and systematic."

He asserted that rights abuses, including what he called "serious torture," had been carried out across a wide section of society.

Mr. Shaheed expressed particular concern for the situation of journalists, rights activists and lawyers defending politically sensitive cases or working with organizations promoting human rights. In a statement to the council, he said they "continue to be subjected to harassment, arrest, interrogation and torture, and are frequently charged with vaguely defined national security crimes, which is seemingly meant to erode the front line of human rights defense in the country."

The Iranian authorities have arrested at least 17 journalists this year, charging nearly all of them with communicating with "anti- revolutionary" international news organizations or human rights organizations, he said. An additional 45 journalists were already in detention at the start of the year. …

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