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UN rights investigator: Iran sends mixed signals

October 24, 2013

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Iran’s defiant response to a United Nations report on the country’s human rights violations fits a pattern of conflicting signals from the Islamic Republic since the election of its new moderate-leaning president, a U.N. investigator said Thursday.

Ahmeed Shaheed, the special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran, said he has observed a change of tone in his conversations with Iranian officials since the election of President Hassan Rouhani, with officials displaying greater willingness to acknowledge deficiencies in Iran’s human rights record.

He was also encouraged that Iranian authorities are more open to discussing the impact of international sanctions, which Shaheed said are taking an increasingly severe social and economic toll.

Yet Iran’s public rejection of Shaheed’s report was fierce.

In a detailed written response, the Iranian government accused the U.N. special rapporteur of using “falsified and exaggerated data to arrive at his pre-desired conclusions.” Iranian diplomat Forouzandeh Vadiati said Shaheed disregarded Iran’s Islamic culture “and considers whatever he sees in the West as an international standard for the entire world.”

Shaheed said he wasn’t surprised by Iran’s response.

“It fits with a broad pattern that there are a lot of positive messages coming out but we’re still keen to see sufficient change on the ground,” he said at a news conference the day after the report was released.

The U.N. report comes as the international community weighs its approach to Rouhani’s outreach to the West over Iran’s nuclear program. Iran resumed negotiations with the U.S. and other powers in the hopes of easing crippling sanctions, but skeptics including Israel have accused the West of being duped by Rouhani and overestimating his ability to confront Iran’s ruling hardline clerics.

Shaheed urged the U.S. and others not to ignore the human rights issue.

His report found Iran’s human rights record has worsened over the last three years, raising the alarm over a surge in the number of journalists arrested and the execution of hundreds of people for drug trafficking offenses.

Shaheed said there has been no concrete improvement in Iran’s human rights situation in the three months since Rouhani took office, although the new president has called for greater media freedoms and other changes.

He said Iran’s Penal Code reform this year did nothing to address U.N. concerns, keeping stoning as a method of execution and allowing the death penalty for minors and people convicted of drug trafficking, homosexual acts and insulting Islamic prophets.

The report cautioned that conflicting reports from Iran and a lack of information makes it difficult to assess the impact of sanctions on Iran’s humanitarian situation. But Shaheed said there are many indications that humanitarian safeguards in the sanctions regime are failing to meet their purpose, including reports of shortages of drugs for cancer, heart disease, AIDS and hemophilia.

The report said Iran’s shutout from the international banking system has prevented Iranian importers from paying for some humanitarian goods that are supposed to be exempt from the sanctions. Shaheed called on countries imposing the sanctions to take steps to prevent any harmful humanitarian consequences.

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