In Geneva on April 24, the United Nations Special Rapporteur regarding the human rights situation in Iran, Asma Jahangir, has denounced a report published by the Iranian News Agency alleging that she was planning to undertake a visit to Saudi Arabia in order to defame the authorities in Tehran. The report also suggested that she intended to carry out the mission on behalf of the military interests.
“I am appalled by this fabricated and malicious news story, which is clearly aimed at compromising my integrity and independence, both of which are recognized internationally,” said Jahangir. “Anyone who has a substantive disagreement with a Special Rapporteur’s assessment can always express their doubts. However, it is unacceptable for mandate holders to be subjected to defamation campaigns when discharging their duties, which are established by the United Nations Human Rights Council.”
She recently released her report to the United Nations, citing the concerns regarding human rights in Iran, including the increasing number of executions for non-violent crimes, such as drug-related charges. As part of her findings, she also noted that legal representation is often lacking and that prisoners suffer from horrible conditions and a lack of medical care.
Other reports have noted the lack of free press in Iran and the clamp-down on the internet and social media outlets. Even the current election will not be hosting live debates, in part due to fears of an uprising, such as was seen in 2009.
Jahangir noted that these accusations reinforced the assessment she made in her first report, where she talked about the climate of fear in Iran. Many human rights activists and lawyers find themselves being jailed or beaten for attempting to speak out on human rights and defend individuals’ right to free speech and the right to protest.
Dissenting opinions are silenced, due in large part to the need of the regime to keep a tight rein on their power. The Special Rapporteur reiterated that campaigns of vilification would neither put her on the defensive nor compromise her independence in reporting the challenges faced by Iranians with regard to their rights, dignity, and freedoms.
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system and the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or issues in all parts of the world.