U.N. General Assembly Raps Iran on Rights Abuses
By Marjorie Olster
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Rebuking Iran on a series of human rights
abuses, the U.N. General Assembly narrowly adopted a resolution on Monday
calling on Tehran to end torture, particularly amputations. Cartoon
The vote was 67 in favor, 54 against with 46 abstentions on the resolution
that chastised Iran for executions, a crackdown on freedom of speech and
press, and discrimination against religious minorities, such as the Bahais.
Last year the Assembly voted 61-47-51 on a similar measure.
The resolution called on the Iranian government ``to take all necessary
steps to end the use of torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading
punishment, in particular the practice of amputation.''
It expressed concern about ``the deterioration of the situation with
regard to freedom of opinion and expression, in particular at restrictions
on the freedom of the press''.
The resolution also criticized the judiciary for suspending newspapers
and arresting journalists, political activists and intellectuals in the
interests of national security, which the General Assembly called ``a pretext
to deny or restrict freedom of expression, opinion and thought.''
The non-binding resolution, however, welcomed recent improvements in
Iran since the election of moderate President Mohammad Khatami, including
the ``broad participation'' in parliamentary elections earlier this year.
But the measure expressed concern at the suspension of several newspapers,
arrests of journalists, cases of torture and discrimination against religious
Primitive Forms Of Torture
The document was based on a report from Canadian jurist Maurice Copithorne
on developments in the first six months of this year. He found executions
continued at a high rate.
``That torture continues in the Islamic Republic of Iran -- and in
its most primitive form -- was confirmed in the period under review,''
said Copithorne, who has not been allow into Iran since 1996.
``Eleven executions were held in public. In three other cases, individuals
sentenced to death were pardoned from execution by the family of the victim
at the execution site,'' Copithorne said in the report.
Stoning, which he called a ``barbaric punishment'', appeared to be
on the decline however, he said.
Copithorne said that Iran's powerful Guardian Council, set up to ensure
that legislation forms with Islam, represented a ''major obstacle: to the
advancement of Iranian democracy.
The closing down of the reformist press had been perhaps the biggest
story in Iran itself, as well ``the most evident mass suppression of a
human right'', he said.
At the time of the preparation of the report, about 22 newspapers and
journals had been closed and an equal number of publishers and writers
had been convicted, jailed or fined or served with a summons by one of
the various tribunals which were exercising jurisdiction over the press.