Washington, DC – NIAC applauds Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) and 23 other Senators who today called for the Obama Administration to work with the international community to establish an independent U.N. human rights monitor on Iran when the U.N. Human Rights Council convenes this March. The action taken by the Senators in support of greater international scrutiny of Iran’s human rights abuses comes just one day after thousands of Iranians defied threats from the Iranian government by taking to the streets in solidarity with the people of Egypt and Tunisia and expressing their own aspirations for democracy and rule of law.
The Senators endorsed this action in a letter to Secretary Clinton that was strongly supported by NIAC.
“The establishment of a U.N. human rights monitor is an important, overdue step to address the Iranian government’s abuses,” said Jamal Abdi, NIAC Policy Director. “Iran’s destiny can only be decided by the Iranian people, but as human rights violations continue in Iran, the international community must be loud and clear that universal rights must be respected.”
The Senate letter is critical of the Human Rights Council’s failure to take any concrete measures to address Iran’s human rights situation in the time that has followed Iran’s disputed June 2009 elections. The letter states, “Establishing an independent U.N. human rights monitor charged with monitoring and reporting on Iran’s human rights violations is an important effort to provide some protection for Iran’s human rights and democracy movement.”
NIAC has joined Iranian human rights defenders like Shirin Ebadi and international human rights organizations like Human Rights Watch in calling for the UN to establish an independent human rights monitor on Iran.
“The United Nations has appointed human rights monitors to address human rights crises in other countries, but not in Iran,” said Abdi. “The Iranian people deserve better.”
The following senators signed the letter to Secretary Clinton: Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), Kirsten E. Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-Penn.), Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), and Tom Udall (D-N.M).
Following is the text of the letter:
February 15, 2011
Dear Madam Secretary:
As the United Nations (U.N.) Human Rights Council (HRC) prepares to begin its session on March 1st, we urge you to work at the HRC to establish an independent human rights monitor on Iran.
The upcoming session of the HRC marks the sixth session since Iran’s June 2009 elections. While Iran has a long history of human rights abuses, those disputed elections spawned one of the largest popular democracy movements of the 21st Century, and unleashed a subsequent campaign of brutal, systematic human rights violations by Iran’s government. This government-sanctioned repression continues to this day, yet the HRC has failed to take any concrete measures to address the situation.
In January 2011 alone, Iran executed at least 83 people, including individuals rounded up in post-election protests and charged with enmity against God. Human rights defenders, lawyers, and pro-democracy activists continue to be targeted for repression and intimidation by the government.
State-sponsored persecution of religious minorities persists, including the sentencing last year of seven Baha’i leaders to ten years in prison. And three American hikers languished in prison for over a year before being charged, and two remain detained to this day. It is long past time for the HRC to take action to establish a human rights monitor on Iran.
Establishing an independent U.N. human rights monitor charged with monitoring and reporting on Iran’s human rights violations is an important effort to provide some protection for Iran’s human rights and democracy movement. You will remember that from 1984 to 2002, an independent human rights monitor on Iran was in place, and some measurable progress was achieved on human rights over that time. However, this mandate has not been renewed since 2002 and since then the situation in Iran has deteriorated.
It is important that the United States work through multilateral institutions to ensure Iran upholds its international human rights obligations. We commend the Administration’s efforts to engage the international community regarding human rights violations. However, human rights violations by the Iranian government continue unabated. The efforts of the HRC have yet to result in the extension of meaningful protections to the groups and persons being persecuted there.
There is bipartisan support in Congress for the Administration’s commitment to advance human rights causes in Iran. We believe it is essential that U.S. membership on the HRC be utilized this March to take an overdue step to address Iran’s human rights crisis by reestablishing an independent human rights monitor to observe and report on the grave situation in the country.
Thank you for your consideration.