Iran Defends Rights Record as Opposition Cancels Rallyhttp://www.nytimes.com/2010/
UNITED NATIONS — As Iran defended its record before the United Nations Human Rights Council, calling itself a model of Middle East democracy, opposition leaders in Tehran on Thursday canceled a weekend rally marking one year since the country’s disputed presidential election because the government did not give them a permit.
Mohammad Javad Larijani, the secretary general of the Iranian High Council for Human Rights, appeared before the human rights body in Geneva and declared that his country was doing its utmost to follow most of the recommendations submitted by the other nations on the council for improving Iran’s record — part of a periodic review that all member states face.
Many questions from Western states and international human rights organizations participating in the process focused on Iran’s lack of public accounting for the widespread violence and imprisonment faced by pro-democracy protesters since the election on June 12, 2009.
Peter Gooderham, the British ambassador, said member states would follow Iran’s promises with interest, “including those on freedoms of assembly and expression.”
“Since February,” Mr. Gooderham said, “Iran has refused any organization to hold public meetings, and why?”
Underscoring the issue, the two main leaders of the opposition Green Movement in Iran, Mir Hussein Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi, called off plans for a nationwide commemoration of last year’s events because they feared bloodshed in the absence of a government permit.
In their statement announcing the cancellation, the two men repeated their accusation that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — whom they ran against in the election — could not claim to head a legitimate government, but said they did not want the rally to proceed, citing concern about possible violence.
“Even the simple announcement of an intention to demonstrate made the repressors shiver from fear and prompted a wide-scale and comprehensive security and police mobilization,” the statement said.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the repression of public dissent was just one of the many ways Iran “caused so much concern around the world.” She spoke just a day after the United States pushed through new Security Council sanctions against Iran over suspicions about its nuclear program. (Iran says the program is peaceful.)
“When you look at the combination of their repression of their own people, manipulation of their own election, the fact that they still are an exporter and supporter of terrorist activities around the world, and their pursuit of nuclear weapons, it adds up to a very dangerous combination,” Mrs. Clinton said at a meeting of Caribbean leaders in Barbados.
In Geneva, Western governments and human rights organizations accused Iran of being duplicitous about its record, promising cooperation with the council over human rights issues while busily subverting many of them at home — including freedom of religion, expression and assembly and an independent judiciary.
Amnesty International said the government was taking aim at students, journalists, political activists, trade unionists, human rights defenders and members of ethnic and religious minorities.
“Executions have been carried out for politically motivated reasons and used to send a chilling message to those who would demonstrate,” the organization said in a statement. “These human rights violations appear to be committed by state officials with total impunity.”
Mr. Larijani attacked the record of the United States, calling it a center of racism, Islamophobia and “hundreds of other phobias,” until the conference chairman reminded him that Iran’s record was under review, not that of the United States.
Mr. Larijani denied accusations that special United Nations rapporteurs investigating issues like torture had been denied access to Iran, saying they had an open invitation. He said Iran was held to a standard out of alignment with its Islamic culture.“We are not a secular system, we are not a liberal system; we are perhaps the only democracy, the greatest democracy in the Middle East,” Mr. Larijani said in comments broadcast live via the Internet from Geneva. He did not refer directly to the postelection violence in any of his remarks.