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"We're the Human Rights Defenders": Officials React to UN Special Rapporteur's Iran Report

October 28, 2021
4 min read
"We're the Human Rights Defenders": Officials React to UN Special Rapporteur's Iran Report

Multiple figures in the Iranian regime have denounced a damning report by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran, which raised the alarm over use of the death penalty in Iran and suggested human rights abusers in the country are rewarded rather than held accountable.  

The Iranian permanent representative to the UN, Esmail Hamaneh, was quoted by PressTV – the English-language arm of Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting – as saying: “The report is full of inaccurate information and false narratives. The methodology used... is based on over-generalizing individual cases, magnifying negatives, minimizing positives and catastrophizing the whole situation.”

The Islamic Republic as Human Rights Defender

Zahra Ershadi, Iran’s deputy ambassador to the UN, said the report took a “selective approach to Iran’s human rights achievements.” She went further, claiming the UN Special Rapporteur’s concerns only served as a distraction to officials from “serving our people by further deepening our truly democratic system of governance and our accomplishments in terms of the protection... of our citizens.”  

More than 200 executions took place in Iran last year, many of whom were juveniles. Scores of Iranian citizens also died in suspicious circumstances while in custody. But, while speaking at the 76th Session of the UN General Assembly, Ershadi deflected attention onto Western countries, particularly Canada, which in the past spearheaded efforts to have a UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran appointed in the first place. 

“When you dig the grounds in Canada, you discover the remains of thousands of indigenous children who were sexually abused, killed and dumped in mass graves,” Ershadi said. “How many statements have so far been delivered by the representatives of the countries criticizing my country about the vicious campaign of genocide in Canada?”

‘UN’s Sources are Terror Groups’

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh had a different take. He said that Javaid Rehman’s report was based on “information provided by foreign-based, anti-Iran terrorist groups,” and that it was “spiteful and worthless, as well as confrontational”. 

He expressed regret that the Special Rapporteur had “used sources given to him by terrorists who are erroneously introduced as human rights defenders... The report can, under no circumstances, provide a real and veritable evaluation of the situation of human rights in Iran.

“Instead of coming up with fresh heinous claims concerning the Islamic Republic, the UN Special Rapporteur should pay attention to the actual crimes against humanity that are being committed against the country.” This remark was a reference to sanctions; Khatibzadeh went on: “The Special Rapporteur should up from [his] deep sleep and condemn the devastating effects of the economic terrorism on Iranians’ access to the bare necessities, including medical and pharmaceutical items during the coronavirus pandemic.”

Khatibzadeh’s remarks on the supposedly illicit nature of the UN’s sources were also carried by the state-owned PressTV, which reported that the UN Special Rapporteur glorified “terrorists whose hands are covered by the blood of innocent Iranians.” It provided no examples.

The Revolutionary Guards-affiliated Fars News Agency was more specific, highlighting a suggestion by Chief Justice Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei, a well-known egregious human rights abuser, that members of the Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization (MEK) were supplying the UN with information. "The hypocrites (MEK members),” he was quoted as saying, “today are welcomed and sheltered by some human rights advocates [who] even appreciate them while considering the Islamic Republic a violator of human rights.” He also provided no evidence for specific groups having collaborated with the UN.

Human Rights “an Instrument”

Other figures in the Islamic Republic claimed the report was intended to weaponize human rights against non-Western countries. The Secretary-General of Iran’s Human Rights Office, Kazem Gharibabadi, said: “Human rights are a commodity for subjecting independent and developing countries to pressure. At a time when the world is suffering from the attitudes and policies of such Western countries...  Issuance of such a report against the Islamic Republic, which, itself, is a victim is a completely political and diversionary measure.”

This sentiment was seconded by Ershadi, who said: “[The] abuse of human rights mechanisms to harass countries that work towards the promotion of human rights will endanger international solidarity among countries and damage lofty goals of human rights. Mutual respect is the sole tool to guarantee and support human rights at the international level.”

Related coverage:

New UN Report Strikes Tougher Stance But Stops Short of Naming Raisi

UN Special Rapporteur: The Islamic Republic Rewards Human Rights Abusers

UN Special Rapporteur Issues Damning Report on the State of Human Rights in Iran

"This is Big": UN Special Rapporteur Calls for Inquiry into Ebrahim Raisi's Crimes

Ebrahim Raisi: The Case for the Prosecution

Raisi's Cabinet Picks: The Sanctioned and the Wanted

Imprisoned Lawyers: Why We Planned to Sue the Supreme Leader

Amnesty: Scores of Iranian Prison Deaths ‘Uninvestigated and Unpunished’


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