Rights groups urge UN chief Ban to visit Iran


U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon should visit Iran or send a special envoy to demand an investigation into violence by security forces after a disputed June 12 election, human rights groups said on Tuesday.

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said reports from within Iran indicated that as many as 2,000 people may be under arrest throughout Iran after a crackdown on opposition leaders, professors, journalists, students and people protesting in the streets against the election result.

The June 12 poll sparked Iran’s most vigorous internal unrest since the 1979 Islamic revolution, but hardliners have regained the upper hand in the world’s fifth-biggest oil exporter, whose nuclear program has alarmed the West.

Hundreds of thousands of Iranians joined street protests after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s victory was first declared, but riot police and religious militia have crushed protests since June 20.

State media say 20 people died in the violence, which the government and opposition blamed on each other.

“The Secretary General (Ban) should insist on making a trip to Iran to insist there be investigations and prosecutions of violence by the Basij,” said Sarah Leah Whitson of Human Rights Watch (HRW), referring to the pro-government Basij militia.

Hadi Ghaemi of the International Campaign for Human Rights suggested Ban could send a special envoy to Iran.

Ghaemi’s group, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch held a news conference with Roxana Saberi, a U.S.-born journalist who was released from a Tehran prison in May after authorities quashed her eight-year sentence for spying.

Saberi called for the release of all political prisoners, who she said were likely subject to torture and being held with no legal justification. She said the spotlight was fading from Iran with other events competing for attention and urged the international community to keep up pressure on Iran.

Ghaemi said almost the entire campaign staff of defeated opposition candidate Mirhossein Mousavi was in jail, leaving him few resources to continue leading protests.

INTERNATIONAL INTEREST

The group gave a list of names of people arrested and in detention with 101 political and opposition figures, 22 journalists, eight university professors and 86 students. Ghaemi said the identities of many more were not known.

U.S. President Barack Obama has been wary of being seen to meddle in Iranian politics, but he said last week hopes for U.S. dialogue with Iran were affected by what he called Tehran’s “outrageous” brutality following a disputed election.

Some Republicans had criticized Obama for his cautious reaction to the crisis, but his tone sharpened last week after some demonstrators were killed.

Whitson said while governments may hesitate to comment directly on internal affairs such as the conduct of an election, human rights violations were a matter of international interest under international law.

“International leaders, Western leaders, Eastern leaders should not shy away from expressing strong condemnation and criticism of Iran’s security forces, of the conduct of Iran’s government in imprisoning people with absolutely no legal justification,” Whitson said.

Reuters.com

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