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Iran - "Shooting at the messenger doesn't delimit the message!" - Interview with Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, Special Rapporteur to the United Nations on Human Rights situation in Iran. "Your work as Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights in the Islamic Republic Iran started in August 2011. You have met several individuals and organisations to understand the Human Rights situation in Iran. Fact is that the numbers of hangings and violations of rights have not ceased but have increased since. How do you evaluate your work in terms of effects on the regime in Iran?"

Dr. Ahmed Shaheed: "Like you point out I have only had 7 month work on the mandate and what I could gather so far: the regime does actually care about my work, even if they have not allowed me into the country. If you look at the responses that they have made towards the initial report and to the draft of this current report and also on the statements that they have made to my mandate since all show that they are very concerned about investigations on Human Rights in Iran and although they have not been cooperating with me they are very keen to see that I also hear their perspective on Human Rights. So I think that attitude is a helpfull one because it carries the possibility that they listen to the recommendations I made, too. But unfortunately I must say, I must caution so far, that there hasn't been any substantiv engagement so far, there hasn't been any meaningful dialogue and everything appears to be a denial of things not being right in Iran. On the one hand I am positive because they are listening to what I am saying and doing but they are still in denial of what is happening in Iran." "Last Tuesday your official report to the Human Rights Council of the United Nations was officially released. Already your interim report from the end of last year was rejected by IRI officials. They accuse you to be an instrument of the so-called Zionist powers who would like to use the issue of Human Rights to overthrow the current system in Iran. What is your answer to these accusations?"

Dr. Ahmed Shaheed: "I think people's work should be judged by what they produce and the focus must always be on the minutes what has been said. Any attempt to not focus on that and talk about other things is just again part of the denial. However I must also emphasize that I reject those allegations about the modus I work. I am an independent rapporteur of the United Nations Human Rights Council. The council is not controlled by any country or organisation or religion or whatever you might want to associate it with. The council has a credibility of being a world body, its membership is worldwide, its membership is chosen from across the regions, across cultures, religions and geographic areas. It is really a global coalition, a global pact on Human Rights. That council appointed me with a clear majority to do my work. And they also imposed on me a clear code of conduct which I follow very carefully. So the motives for this work are very transparent and clear. All these allegations are made to make some noise in order not to focus on what has been said. So I would again invite the government in Iran to look at what has been said as there have been executions of so many people. Have there been so many executions in Iran? Have those people been denied a fair trial process? Are people's rights being violated in prison? Are they being tortured? Have people been intimidated in political submission? These things need to be examined, not shoot at the messenger! Shooting at the messenger doesn't delimit the message." "Many Iranians are gratefull for the work you do and appreciate your engagement. Their hopes are tied to your role and mandate. In your report you mention a broad variety of Human Rights violations against different groups and layers of the society in Iran. Concerning unrecognized religious groups in Iran your report focusses very much on the Baha'i group. Many other groups like Ahl-e Hagh and Yarsan suffer similar persecutions. We have observed that the regime only goes slower with their campaigns of hate, discriminations and Human Rights violations when there is attention on an international level. Some groups feel that mentioning only one group may give the IRI the impression that they should be more carefull with the group mentioned and continue relentlessly their discriminations and violations against all others. What do you think, how will the regime interpret this subject?"

Dr. Ahmed Shaheed: "I do not think the regime will interpret this subject in that light. They see me as a continuing investigator with a series of reports at intervalls which will focus on different aspects. Given the way the UN works like for example the limitations of words it is impossible to have full compendium on the Human Rights violations in any report. You will see a difference in my first report to the current one. Yes, in my current report I only speak about Bahai's, I don't speak about the other unrecognized religions or even about the religions that are recognized but which are again given a different kind of treatment. In a sort of a comprehensive report - unfortunately in the time frame that I had and the difficulties that I had - I wasn't able to collect as much data on the other religions as the Bahais this time. In my future reports these other religions will be highlighted and of course I will bring these matters to the Human Rights council. Now although my reports are being done twice a year I am continously on the job. So when there are cases that involve Human Rights violations they can have the informations reported to me and I can react to them immediately.

And if a press statement is required I can highlight this issue.

I do not think the regime will think because I have not mentioned an issue in my report that they can carry on as if there was no concern or interest. No, I don't think they will take that message.

What this report does is to focus on certain aspects of which we have been able to get the informations which highlight a pattern. It is a pattern of discriminations against unrecognized religions, a pattern against other religious minorities and so and so on. What I do is to focus on the pattern and speak about that. So finally I think the regime will take note of the fact hat there is somebody out there who will take issue with their business." "Some Iranians keep on rising the issue of an imminent danger for persons working outside of Iran in benefit of Human Rights in Iran. We have spoken to some who have been put under pressure or have been menaced by agents of the regime outside of Iran. Does your mandate include a research in the Human Rights violations of the regime outside of Iran and what protection would your role provide to these people?"

Dr. Ahmed Shaheed: "Yes, my mandate. I am interested in the rights of Iranian citizens outside the country if they become victims of actions that can be attributed to the goverment in Iran. Because if you are mistreating the rights of a country the primary focus of that is the actions of the government. Even if these actions occur outside the country for matters that relate to what happens in the country have a direct link to my mandate. However I must add I am only one person in a network of people who should stand up to defend human rights in Iran. When this happens in a country, then the host country should act. I am sure that we should demand that action be taken by the host government to defend the rights of nationals and citizens living in that country. But should this be associated to actions of the regime in Teheran I have obviously interest in pointing out to these people that certain things are happening and therefore to appeal that they take measures that would safeguard these people from the violations of their rights. So it is really a broad mandate - but bear in mind that I am one of many human right defenders in Iran and I call upon others also to do their part and be vigilant in the protection of Human Rights in Iran." "We know that you are aware of the thousands of Iranian citizens who have fled their country to Turkey and suffer from their uncertain fate. What can your mandate contribute to solve the problem of these people?"

Dr. Ahmed Shaheed: "I am in touch with other UN agencies who deal with Iranians outside the country, so I will continue to play that role. I have not examined the situation of the diaspora, I haven't looked at the refugees yet, because than I am oppressing other concerns that I am looking to and because there are other bodies that are looking into that . So I will reach to the persons and reach to the relevant UN organisation directly responsible in that country. So for example in this case the High Commissioner. But if you will convey informations to my office I will also attend to these matters and try to talk to the concerned bodies and see if they can move on this. Yes there is a need to have a look at those who have fled their country to talk about the abuse of their rights due to a number of reasons government of Turkey is also concerned to look at the welfare of the people in their country and that's also one avenues that can be examined.

But clearly I am interested in any pattern of Human Rights violations that are occurring even outside theri country in which case I could begin a dialogue with concerned parties or concerned agencies to see how we all come to a better situation for them." "We have the impression that your mandate would win legitimacy if governments, NGO's and western civil societies would increase their support for your request to have the permission to enter Iran and have a visit to the prisons and continue your research on Human Rights violations inside the country. What are your expectations or wishes from the International Community in this concern?"

Dr. Ahmed Shaheed: "I think we all remain in close consultation and close contact because you mentioned a wide range of bodies there: international NGO's, domestic NGO's, member states with different mandates, different priorities, different interests. It would be good if all of us would remain on one page. My appeal to all of us is to remain on one page to get a coordinated approach. It will maximise the betterment of the people in Iran in their quest to have better Human Rights for them.

I have been very satisfied up to now what I have got from the international NGO's like Amnesty International and so on and member states of the Human Rights Council regardless of their mandate. All of them have been on very good terms with me. Some of course have been very keen to promote the mandate and their actions are quite visible there. If you look at the UN general assembly vote in New York in November again you saw an increasing margin of countries supporting the Iranian Human Rights issues in a more direct manner. They also had a call on the government of Iran to let me into the country. I hope that this call will be repeated by the Human Rights Council when this subject will be dealed with next week. My position is that Human Rights of any country is worthwhile for any country in the world to unite and to promote."

Interviewer Helmut N. Gabel, International Organisation to preserve Human Rights in Iran