Human Rights Watch:
Link Iran ties to human rights compliance

From: Elahe Hicks

15 Rue Van Campenhout
1040 Brussels, Belgium
Telephone: 322-732-2009
Facsimile: 322-732-0471

April 24, 1997

TO: Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the European Union Member States
FROM: Human Rights Watch/Brussels

On April 10, the Berlin Superior Court formally implicated the government of Iran in the September 1992 assassinations in Berlin of three Kurdish Iranian dissidents and their translator. The trial revealed compelling evidence that these were political killings by government agents.

The verdict provides an unprecedented opportunity for the government of Iran to show that it will no longer defend indefensible practices and policies of the past. It also serves as an opportunity for European Union governments to make clear that they refuse to countenance such illegal activity on their territory, and that they will link improved relations with Iran to that country's compliance with international human rights law domestically as well as internationally.

Scores of dissident Iranian political figures and writers have been murdered abroad since the consolidation of the Islamic Republic in the early 1980s. In a number of cases, persons carrying out these attacks have been linked to Iranian state institutions. Iranian officials have consistently denied any complicity in assassinations abroad, and have attributed the Berlin killings to fighting among Kurdish dissident groups. The plausibility of Iran's disclaimer is undermined by the Islamic Republic's extensive repression of virtually all political opposition by its citizens and, in the case of the Berlin murders, its long-standing campaign to crush the Kurdish Democratic Party-Iran (KDPI) and other Kurdish Iranian political organizations.

More importantly, the government of Iran has consistently refused to cooperate with official investigations in the countries where these murders have occurred, and has often obstructed, and pressured other governments to drop, those investigations. The government of Iran, furthermore, has consistently failed to repudiate statements by high-level officials that appear to sanction extrajudicial executions of Iranian dissidents abroad. A case in point is a statement made several weeks before the Berlin assassinations by Hojjatoleslam Ali Fallahaian, Minister of Information and Security and the one Iranian official cited by name in the Berlin court verdict. "We have been able to deal blows to many of the mini-groups outside the country and on the borders," Fallahian reportedly said in a television interview on August 30, 1992. Mentioning the KDPI by name, he added, "We were able to deal vital blows to their cadres last year...." According to the finding of the Berlin Superior Court, Fallahian participated in the "Committee for Special Operations," a secret, extra-constitutional grouping that included President Rafsanjani and Supreme Leader Ali Khamene'i, and he was tasked with responsibility for carrying out the liquidation of the KDPI leaders.

We are aware that you have added the question of relations with Iran to the agenda of the already-scheduled Council of Ministers meeting on April 29. Human Rights Watch urges you to use the April 29 meeting to formulate a joint approach toward Iran, based on the objectives of the Common Foreign and Security Policy as laid down in the Treaty on European Union, which include respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. On that basis, we urge that you inform the government of Iran that resumption of normal political and commercial relations require Iran to take specific and measurable steps to show that it rejects, condemns and will expose and punish any Iranian agents engaged in the murder of political dissidents and opposition leaders, including those that occur abroad. In particular, you should insist that the Iranian government:

* carry out an independent, public inquiry into what appear to have been extrajudicial executions carried out by agents of the Iranian state.

* invite the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extra-Judicial, Summary and Arbitrary Executions to conduct an inquiry into what appear to have been extrajudicial executions carried out by agents of the Iranian state, and cooperate fully with that inquiry.

* hold accountable any officials found responsible for ordering or sanctioning the commission of extrajudicial executions or other gross violations of international human rights law.

* repudiate publicly and unequivocally all statements by Iranian officials and governmental institutions that threaten or appear to threaten the fundamental human rights of political opponents.

Human Rights Watch further urges the Council of Ministers on April 29 to adopt a common position on a broad range of human rights criteria, under Article J.2 of the Treaty of Maastricht, making clear that preferential trade terms and bilateral or multilateral aid for Iran_except aid for strictly humanitarian purposes_will be contingent on a positive response of the government of Iran to the following recommendations:

* releasing all those convicted and imprisoned or detained without charge for the peaceful expression of political views, including writers and journalists, persons detained solely for their nonviolent participation in demonstrations, and dissident clerics such as the followers of Grand Ayatollahs Montazeri and Shirazi.

* permitting independent human rights organizations, and the U.N. Special Representative on the Human Rights Situation in Iran, to function without interference, and allowing international humanitarian and human rights organizations access to political prisoners and detainees.

* repudiating publicly and unequivocally the fatwa against British author Salman Rushdie and all those associated with the publication of The Satanic Verses.

The foreign ministers of the E.U. should further resolve that their governments intend to:

* investigate and prosecute to the fullest extent of the law attacks directed against resident Iranian and other foreign nationals carried out in the territory of E.U. member states.

* invite the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary and Arbitrary Executions to conduct investigations of suspected extrajudicial executions of resident Iranian and other foreign nationals in their countries, and urge non-E.U. countries to do the same.

* request the European Commission to monitor and report publicly on human rights conditions in Iran.

* designate E.U. member state embassy staff in Tehran to attend trials of persons prosecuted for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association, in order to demonstrate concern with the Iranian government's policy of criminalizing nonviolent political activity and advocacy.

By acting in this manner, the Council of Ministers can forcefully express their governments' refusal to countenance egregious violations of international human rights law. By pursuing the recommendations sketched out above, moreover, the E.U. can make absolutely clear that improved relations with Iran require that country to take firm and transparent steps to bring its policies into accord with internationally recognized principles of human rights protection domestically as well as internationally.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

/s/ Kenneth Roth
Executive Director

/s/Lotte Leicht
Director, Brussels office

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