Human Rights in Iran: The Abuse of Cultural Relativism

By Reza Afshari | Go to book overview

Chapter 17
UN Monitoring, 1984–2000
Mixed Results

Let me return to the UN monitoring process and reporting procedures and examine not only their limitations but also their possible influence on Iranian officials who were assigned to deal with the charges of human rights violations. The results were mixed, mostly ineffective in forcing the recalcitrant state to change its practices but somewhat adequate in helping the society to arrive at a better understanding of human rights. However, the visible changes in Iran in the late 1990s and the reformers’ discussions about past violations had no real impact on Iranian diplomats who continued upholding the façade of rejections and denials in the United Nations.


The Limitations of the UN Procedure

To counter the charges of human rights violations in the first phase of their encounter with the Commission on Human Rights, the regime’s diplomats made use of every arrow in the state quiver of obfuscation, distortion, and denial. By the end of the 1980s, it had become apparent that the tactics used by the diplomats proved ineffective in removing the state from the UN special procedures or changing the highly negative judgments of international human rights organizations. Nevertheless, they had considerable success in adding confusion to the monitoring process. The more politically confused the process of monitoring human rights becomes, the more difficult it is to establish a clear responsibility for the state that violates the rights of its citizens.

Like other authoritarian states, the regime played other parts of the UN human rights machinery against Special Representative Galindo Pohl, who refused to recommend removing Iran from the special procedures. While denying him access to the country, the Iranian Foreign Ministry invited the newly appointed High Commissioner, José Ayala Lasso, to visit in 1995; he wisely deferred. Following the same track, the Ministry invited the Special

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