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Cross-Regional Groups Call on Muslim Countries to Support a UN Human Rights Monitor on Iran; Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) Should Defend UN Action on Iran as in Libya

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(18 March 2011) Human rights organizations working across the Muslim world have urged member States of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) to support a resolution at the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) creating a mechanism to monitor human rights in Iran, announced the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), and the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies today.

“From mass executions, to torture, to suppression of peaceful demonstrations, Iran is in the midst of a serious human rights crisis and that is why rights groups from various Muslim countries recognize the need for action,” said Hadi Ghaemi, Executive Director of the Campaign. “An endorsement of the UN resolution by the OIC countries will make it clear that rights violations are unacceptable anywhere, and this includes Muslim citizens.”

On Monday, 14 March 2001, thirty-eight independent human rights organizations from the Middle East, Africa and Asia sent a letter to the Foreign Ministers of the OIC member States, calling on Muslim nations to support a resolution that would establish a Special Rapporteur tasked with monitoring and reporting the human rights situation in Iran. Organizations from Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Lebanon, Malaysia, Nigeria, Palestine, Syria, Uganda, and Yemen, as well as Arab, African and Asian regional organizations, signed the letter.

The letter states, “As human rights groups working on behalf of the rights of citizens of Muslim countries … We hope you will give positive consideration to a resolution that will help change the negative human rights dynamic affecting the Islamic Republic of Iran.” “A monitoring mechanism will provide a platform for information gathering and, hopefully, constructive dialogue with the authorities on changing practices which, if they continue, can only lead to more unrest,” the letter added.

“In recent months Iranian officials have rightly criticized the governments of Libya and Egypt, and now Bahrain, for using violence to suppress the peaceful demands of their people to achieve human rights,” said Bahey el-din Hassan, Director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies. “But the Iranian government has been engaging in similar violence and brutality against its own people. It is time that Iranian authorities accord the same rights to their own citizens as they purport to support in the rest of the Arab and Muslim world.”

On 25 February 2011, the OIC, an association of 57 Muslim-majority countries, issued a statement condemning widespread violations in Libya. Speaking on behalf of the OIC member States on the situation in Libya during the 15th Special Session of the HRC, Zamir Akram, Permanent Representative of Pakistan to United Nations, said, “Muslims will no longer be denied their rights. Justice, equality and the rule of law must prevail, not only within Muslim societies but across the world.”

“We are encouraged by the OIC’s strong stance against the Libyan government’s violent attacks against its citizens,” said Yap Swee Seng, Executive Director of the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (Forum Asia). “Muslim governments should again speak up and defend the rights of Muslim citizens across the world, including by backing the Human Rights Council resolution on Iran.”

In Monday’s letter, the thirty-eight right groups stressed that “the Human Rights Council must do all it can to prevent the Islamic Republic of Iran from following the violent course of Libya, and encourage the Islamic Republic of Iran to adhere to human rights principles and standards.”

On Monday, 14 March 2001, the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, released a report criticizing Iran’s rights record and the government’s repeated failure to cooperate with the current UN human rights mechanisms. Since the June 2009 presidential election, international organizations have observed a dramatic deterioration in Iran’s human rights record. In the wake of the election, authorities jailed over 5,000 people simply for taking part in peaceful protests or exercising free expression. And recently, as pro-democracy protests swept across the region, Iran detained another 1,500 protestors. The Iranian government has also routinely resorted to torture and unfair trials to suppress its critics. University admissions boards deny students admission based on their political and religious views. The country’s execution rate has risen dramatically, with over 150 persons executed since the beginning of 2011, compared to 94 in all of 2005. On 2 February 2011, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns called “on the Iranian Government to immediately declare a moratorium on the death penalty in view of the gravity of the situation and the regular disregard of due process guarantees.”

Among the signatories of the letter are the African Democracy Forum; Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA); Arab Organization for Human Rights; Bahrain Center for Human Rights; Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies; Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies; East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Network; Human Rights Agenda Nigeria; Human Rights Working Group-Indonesia’s NGO Coalition for International Human Rights Advocacy; International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran; Sisters Arab Forum for Human Rights; and Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM).

Read the full text of the letter and see the list of signatories here.