The human rights discussion came approximately two weeks after the one-year renewal of the mandate for Ahmed Shaheed, the United Nations special rapporteur for human rights in Iran whose latest reports to the Human Rights Council have emphasized the continuation or worsening of conditions inside the country in the more than two and a half years since the election of President Hassan Rouhani.
The renewal of Shaheed’s mandate had been urged by dozens of human rights organizations including Amnesty International, whose deputy director for Middle East and North Africa recently declared that human rights have been “absolutely left in the margins” while Western governments have focused attention upon last summer’s agreement over the Iranian nuclear program.
The sanctions relief associated with that agreement has led to an outpouring of Western interest in reestablishing trade relations with the Islamic Republic, and this has been decried by various human rights advocates. In keeping with this criticism, Vareikis used Thursday’s webinar to say, “It is wrong to focus on trade deals with the mullahs’ regime and overlook the appalling human rights situation.”
Lord Carlile called for international attention to that situation by saying, “I hope officials of Iran’s regime will soon be tried for war crimes at international courts.”
The lawmakers similarly criticized what they perceived as a weak response by Western governments to Iranian provocations including at least five ballistic missile tests since the conclusion of the nuclear agreement. Those tests have been described as “violating” or “defying” United Nations Security Council resolutions calling upon the Islamic Republic to avoid work on weapons that are capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
Echoing sentiments that have been expressed by US congressmen and other critics of the nuclear agreement, McCabe said, “We need new economic sanctions on Iran’s regime over its recent missile tests. Any international company that sells weapons to Iran regime must face sanctions.”
The timing of Thursday’s discussion was arguably made more noteworthy by the fact that it came one day ahead of the five-year anniversary of a purportedly Iranian-backed attack on Camp Ashraf, Iraq, the erstwhile home of thousands of exiled Iranian members of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, which is the main Iranian resistance group and the primary constituent of the NCRI coalition.
On Friday, the NCRI’s website reiterated the details of that attack, which killed 36 PMOI members and wounded hundreds of others. It also emphasized that attacks of this nature have persisted following the group’s relocation to Camp Liberty near the Baghdad airport, as the Iranian regime has continued to wield influence in Iraq and elsewhere in the region.
Such incidents are highlighted by activists to indicate the foreign significance of Iran’s human rights record. This topic has also been put under the spotlight in recent months by reports of the politically-motivated arrests and general mistreatment of Iranians who also hold foreign citizenship.
The persistence of political imprisonment remains a hot button issue among domestic Iranian activists, as well as among foreign advocates. But for the former group, it is also a source of frequent crackdowns by Iranian authorities. For instance, the Human Rights Activists News Agency reported this week that five Iranian activists had begun serving three-month prison terms and were also facing a punishment of 30 lashes each, solely for having held a placard at a soccer game which read “political prisoners should be released.”