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UN member states should challenge Ahmadinejad as campaign to crush dissent continues, says Human Rights Watch

(Human Rights Watch/IFEX) - New York, September 21, 2011 - Member states of the United Nations should use President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's appearance before the UN General Assembly to highlight the Iranian government's gross and systematic human rights violations against its own people, Human Rights Watch said today. Member states should press the Iranian leader to allow the newly appointed UN special envoy on Iran and independent human rights organizations to visit the country. The Iranian president is scheduled to address the Assembly in New York on September 22, 2011.

On September 21, Iranian authorities publicly executed 17-year-old Alireza Mollasoltani, according to Iranian state media. The judiciary convicted Mollasoltani for the July 2011 murder of weightlifting champion Ruhollah Dadashi. International law strictly prohibits the execution of anyone who was under the age of 18 when the offense was committed.

"President Ahmadinejad should not go unchallenged using the UN bully pulpit to praise pro-democracy protests in the Middle East while his government crushes dissent at home," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "Member states of the UN should respond to his speech by shining a light on Iran's appalling rights record, which includes the abhorrent practice of juvenile executions."

Human rights conditions have worsened considerably in Iran since the government crackdown on largely peaceful protests that followed the disputed June 2009 presidential election, Human Rights Watch said. This year, authorities continued their brutal campaign to crush dissent inside the country, using lethal force against peaceful protesters, arresting hundreds, and killing dozens. Authorities detained opposition leaders, lawyers, journalists, and rights activists on politically motivated charges. Hundreds of prisoners have been executed, often after unfair trials or on the basis of dubious charges. Officials at both the national and local levels have engaged in systematic discrimination against the country's ethnic and religious minorities, including Sunni and Sufi Muslims.

On September 17, 2011, two days before Ahmadinejad arrived in New York, Iranian security forces arrested six independent filmmakers for allegedly cooperating with BBC Persian on a documentary. They were transferred to Evin prison's notorious Ward 240, which is controlled by the Iranian Intelligence Ministry. Two days earlier, on September 15, prison authorities subjected Somayeh Tohidlou, a campaigner for opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, to 50 lashes. On September 10 security forces arbitrarily arrested and detained Abdolfattah Soltani, a prominent lawyer and cofounder of the Center for Defenders of Human Rights with Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi.

Human Rights Watch identified key concerns in Iran in a recent submission to the UN Human Rights Committee, prepared in response to the government's claims that it is in compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Iran continues to refuse access to UN special envoys and human rights monitors, despite many longstanding and repeated requests for invitations to visit. None have visited since 2005. The government has also failed to implement UN expert bodies' recommendations. In July 2011 the government said it would not cooperate with or allow access to the newly appointed special rapporteur on Iran, Ahmed Shaheed.

Click here to read the key rights violations identified by Human Rights Watch in its recent submission to the UN Human Rights Committee
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