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Shirin Ebadi on the Rights of Iranians
Human Rights Activist Speaks Out Against Iranian Government
Michael Solis (msolis)     Print Article 
Published 2009-09-24 09:53 (KST)   
On Tuesday Sept. 22, Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi spoke before an audience of students, lawyers, activists, and supporters about Iran셲 state-sponsored human rights atrocities and the international community셲 response to them.

After working for years in Iran셲 Justice Department, Ebadi became the first woman in Iranian history to serve as a judge. However, after the victory of the Islamic revolution in 1979, the government dismissed her and all other women judges from their posts. She began a private practice in the 1990s, which she used to defend cases involving serial murder victims, opposition students killed in university dorms, and women accused of violating the dress code.

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Ebadi spoke in light of the continuing and chaotic aftermath of the June 12 presidential election, after which Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed a highly disputed victory that millions of Iranians believe was rigged. In response, thousands of Iranians took to the streets to carry out peaceful demonstrations, calling for an annulment of the result and an election re-run.

The Iranian government, ruled by Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, responded to the mass protests with the use of lethal force, arbitrary confinements, and coercion.

쏛 substantial number of people did not accept the election results, Ebadi stated. 쏝ut the government response was to shoot and kill. A trial in September described the [opposition] movement as a 쁵elvet or 쁲oft coup d셞tat.

According to Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, 72 people to date have been killed in the ongoing street protests. The government, on the other hand, claims that only 30 people died during the protests and attributes their deaths to the opposition. International organizations have not been able to confirm the exact number due to restrictions imposed on and threats against human rights defenders and their families.

There have also been allegations of torture and rape of detainees. According to the international organization Human Rights Watch, over 4,000 people have been detained, including political figures, journalists, professors, and student leaders. Nearly 400 people remain in detention.

Ebadi also mentioned the Iranian government has placed Facebook, Google, and the Internet on the docks as defendants, as the government has described them as tools given to protesters by Western governments to help stage a 쐓oft coup.

쏧n an undemocratic country, even technology can stand accused of provoking a regime change, she stated.

Iran has signed and ratified the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantees all Iranians their right to life, freedom of expression, and freedom from torture and arbitrary arrest.

Iran is obligated to respect the provisions of the treaty, and its state-sponsored abuses against peaceful protesters and opposition members are clear and undeniable violations of Iranians human rights.

Though Iran has yet to sign onto the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Ebadi says that Iran셲 torture policies are not only violations of international law, but also unacceptable interpretations of Islamic texts.

쏧n countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, and Morocco, such punishment is banned. Only some Islamic countries have adopted such radical interpretations of their holy texts, she said.

Ebadi took a critical tone to what she perceives to be the international community셲 waning interest in a continuing issue of utmost importance.

쏡o you not care that at 3 a.m. [the government] attacked a dormitory, killing five people? Do you not care that they arrested 3,000 people during the protest? Do you not care that some have died of torture? she asked.

Additionally, Ebadi addressed the drastic measures taken by the government to prevent the dissemination of knowledge regarding state-sponsored instances of human rights abuse, murder, and torture. She said that the international community must confront this obstacle with consistent, accurate, and honest news. She cited the Iranian government셲 fear of disseminating information as an indication of its awareness that it has violated binding human rights obligations.

쏻hy don셳 you speak about the trials and court cases? If something is bad, don셳 do it. If it is good, fine. Why are you afraid to let others know about what is going on? she said.

This month셲 raids against the Mousavi campaign셲 office, where the Committee to Investigate the Situation of Detainees collected and analyzed information regarding human rights abuses, as well as the opposition Karoubi party셲 office are recent examples of state-sponsored efforts to destroy and prevent the dissemination of state-sponsored abuses.

Iranian authorities have closed both offices, as well as the office of the Association to Defend Prisoners Rights.

As President Ahmadinejad prepares for his Wednesday visit to the United Nations General Assembly to address the human rights situation in Iran, protesters are circulating billboards near the UN headquarters in Manhattan to link Ahmadinejad with murder, torture, and rape.

They are also demanding that the president be held accountable for the human rights atrocities. Countries such as Germany, Canada, and Israel are planning to walkout of Ahmadinejad셲 speech as a show of solidarity in response to the abuses and Ahmadinejad셲 recently vocalized denial of the Holocaust.

Simultaneously, as the P5 nations of Britain, China, France, Russia, and the United States continue their discussions with Iran over nuclear non-proliferation, activists -- Shirin Ebadi included -- are urging negotiators to prioritize the issue of human rights throughout the political process.

쏤reedom of expression does not belong solely to Western countries, Ebadi said. 쏧t is important everywhere. Whenever you may negotiate with Iranian government, do not forget democracy and human rights.
©2009 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Michael Solis

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