Washington, 15 January (IranVNC)—A leading rights group yesterday criticized Iran in its yearly review of the situation of human rights around the world, and called on US President-elect Barak Obama to put human rights at the center of US policy after he takes office next week.
In its 564-page annual report, which was released yesterday, the New York-based Human Rights Watch said that in 2008, Iran continued to experience a “dramatic rise” in arrests of activists and academics.
“With the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad continuing to invoke ‘national security’ as a justification for silencing dissent, 2008 saw a dramatic rise in arrests of political activists, academics and others for peacefully exercising their rights of free expression and association in Iran,” HRW wrote.
The report also said that Iran upped pressure on civil society groups, such as the human rights law office of the Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Shirin Ebadi, and the Association of Iranian Journalists.
“The government has increased pressure on civil society organizations that call for human rights and freedom of speech, by restricting their activities and barring activists from leaving the country,” HRW wrote.
HRW highlighted an increase in the number of executions carried out last year, and noted that Iran was the only country to have executed juvenile offenders in 2008 – a total of six individuals found guilty of crimes committed when they were under the age 18.
Women’s rights activists were also subject to an escalated “crackdown” in 2008, the group said, noting that dozens of women were detained, harassed and prevented from foreign travel during that period.
On the situation of Iran’s ethnic and religious minorities – especially members of Azarbayjani, Kurdish and Baha’i populations – the group said that they continued to experience discrimination and, in some cases, persecution.
Iran’s nuclear program dominated international discussions on and policy toward Iran, which the group said ended up “overshadowing the urgency of discussing Iran’s human rights violations.”
But the group said that Obama, who will take office on 20 January, has a chance to put human rights “at the heart of foreign, domestic and security policy” in order to reverse what it called the “enormous damage” of the policies of outgoing US President George W. Bush.
HRW said that Bush, during its eight-year term, largely withdrew from defending human rights once he decided to begin combating terrorism.
“US leadership in promoting human rights will be vital… because at present, the most energetic and organized diplomacy addressing human rights is negative – conducted by nations trying to avoid scrutiny of their own and their allies’ abuses,” HRW said.
US State Department spokesperson rejected the group’s criticism, saying that Washington was “proud of our record on promotion of human rights”.