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The UN Should Reconsider Its Policy On Iran's Human Rights Record

Activists opposing the government of Iran place the images of victims of state-sponsored executions of political prisoners in 1988 in Iran, on the East Front of the US Capitol in Washington, September 12, 2019

The United Nation has since 2011 appointed three special rapporteurs for Iran to monitor and report on the human rights situation in the country. They have never been allowed to visit the Iran while according to their annual reports, arbitrary arrests, torture and daily executions have significantly increased since then.

Iran's regime is notorious for public executions as the country has sadly achieved horrific records on the number of executions, second largest after China.

Although the theocracy has signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which forbids executing child offenders for crimes committed under the age of 18, it has hanged at least 12 juveniles since the start of 2018 while currently 90 are awaiting on death row.

The UN General Assembly has adopted ten resolutions on the situation of human rights in Iran from 2009 to last year criticizing and condemning the systematic violations and persecution reported by the Special Rapporteur for Iran.

These resolutions and reports have urged Iran's regime to address the substantive concerns and to respect its human rights obligations, both in law and practice.

One of the latest reports in December last year called upon Iran's regime to launch a comprehensive accountability process in response to all cases of serious human rights abuses and end impunity for such violations.

Instead of respecting this recommendation, the theocracy appointed one of the most notorious officials Ebrahim Raeesi (Raisi) to head its Justiciary.

Raeesi was a member of death commission during the massacre of thousands of political prisoners in 1988, which was documented by UN Special Rapporteur on Iran in a report in August 2017 and an Amnesty International report in December 2018. The mass executions took place across Iran between July and September 1988 as thousands of political activists who were serving their prison sentences; most of them members and supporters of opposition Mujahedin-e Khalghe (MEK) but also from the left

The US Treasury Department has sanctioned Raeesi for being involved in the regime's brutal crackdown on opponents particularly in the 1988 massacre.

He has criticized the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Situation in Iran, Javaid Rehman, for his latest report on the human rights situation inside the country.

"Implementing divine decrees in the Islamic Republic is beyond any discussion, and reports on the violation of human rights in Iran are absolutely wrong and baseless," he addressed the regime"s human rights council on Monday 4 November.

The UN human rights council will hold the 34th session of its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in November to review the human rights records of all its members.

In the session on Friday 8 November, UN member states will question Iran's regime on its human rights records and previous reports by special rapporteurs.

Likewise, in previous years, questions asked by Western democracies did not make sense, which shows they have do not have a good understanding of Iran's political and ideological structure.

The UK asks the question whether the regime has any plans to end the death penalty for child offenders or allow the Baha’i community to participate in the society. The Islamic Republic has frequently been asked these types of questions during the last two UPR cycles, but its records have derided the questioner.

Sweden naively asks what measures the regime will take to improve the respect for freedom of opinion and expression. Amnesty International reported last September that the country's Revolutionary Court has sentenced four journalists and three labor rights activists between six and 18 years in prison and, in one case, 74 lashes on bogus national security charges. That is in addition to over 7,000 arrested by the authorities in 2018 alone for taking part in peaceful protests.

However, the court has tactically released a few of them on bail to decrease pressures before the coming UPR.

This modus operandi has provided Tehran's officials with impunity for their 40 years of gross human rights violations.

Mostafa Pourmohammadi, current advisor to the head of the Judiciary and former justice minister in the cabinet of President Hassan Rouhani, who was also a member of death commission in 1988, blatantly defended the massacre of political prisoners in a recent interview with state media.

In her latest report in 2017, the former UN Special Rapporteur on Iran's human rights situation, Asma Jahangir called for a comprehensive and independent investigation into the massacre.

Alas, the current UN human rights rapporteur and representatives of UN member states have naively expected Iranian officials who have architected mass executions to launch comprehensive accountability processes in response to all concerns.

To end impunity of the Iranian authorities, the upcoming UPR meeting crucially needs to consider new actions. Logically, it is enough to call Iran's regime to stop executions and hold its officials to account.

The world has had enough fruitless discussions with the mullahs over human rights as their ideology rejects democratic Western democratic values.

Amnesty International has consistently called for the UN to set up an independent investigation into the extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances of 1988, to establish the truth, enable prosecutions of those suspected of responsibility and ensure that survivors and families of victims receive justice and reparations. Amnesty also urged the world to not close its eyes on the 1988 massacre describing it is an ongoing crime against humanity and not a historical tragedy of the past.

During the UPR on 8 November, the UN member states must ask the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Human Rights Council to establish an independent UN-led investigation into the 1988 massacre to ensure accountability.

This is a rightful act that can end the Iranian authorities' impunity and also genuinely improve human rights conditions in Iran. The Justice-seeking movement has significant popularity among Iranians inside the country but Iran’s jusdiciary punishes anyone who raises the issue. The case of Maryam Akbari Monfared is notable, who is imprisoned for her open letters seeking truth and justice for her siblings executed in 1988.