U.S. working for U.N. rights body to speak out on Iran

GENEVA (Reuters) - The United States said on Friday it was working to convince members of the U.N. Human Rights Council to voice solidarity with victims of post-election violence and repression in Iran.

U.S. ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe said she hoped the 47-member forum would adopt a strong statement on Iran next week which enjoyed broad support from countries in all regions.

“It is intended as a show of solidarity with the human rights defenders, rather than a condemnation of the government,” Donahoe told Reuters.

The statement would add to pressure on Iran after extended sanctions agreed by the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday to punish it for its suspected nuclear weapons program.

The United States is lobbying hard for other countries to back the text, aiming for it to be presented on Tuesday, perhaps by Norway, U.N. sources said.

“We realized that we would be more likely to get a powerful statement out of this body if it was done with consensus across regions,” Donahoe said.

She said the aim was also to highlight the plight of ordinary citizens in the year since the disputed presidential election, which led to the biggest street protests since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

“We are concerned that because of government violence and brutality, they are being intimidated from telling their stories,” Donahoe said. “The truth is not coming out.”


Iran’s opposition on Thursday canceled a rally to mark the anniversary of the election due to fears for people’s lives in any crackdown by a government under pressure at home and abroad.

A year after the re-election of hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the reformist “green movement” had hoped to bring its supporters back onto the streets to show continued opposition to a government it says won through vote rigging. The government denies the accusation.

Fewer people on the streets of Tehran meant there would be less media coverage of the anniversary, leaving the wrong impression that Iranians aren’t upset, Donahoe said.

“People are just becoming fearful and we’re just not getting the whole story,” she said.

She was speaking after attending a session on “Iran’s Deepening Human Rights Crisis,” organized by groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch which issued a joint call for U.N. monitoring of human rights abuses in Iran.

Ebrahim Mehtari, an Iranian activist and blogger who fled his country last year, said contrary to appearances the opposition was growing in strength.

Mehtari gave testimony that he had been arrested and tortured last August before being dumped out of a car bleeding on the side of a road. “I was sexually abused and sodomized with batons in prison,” he said, speaking through an interpreter.

The 27-year-old showed scars on the back of his neck, hands and other areas that he said came from his Iranian jailers putting out cigarettes on his body and applying electric shocks.

Local police who found him took him to a medical examiner whose report confirms mistreatment, according to Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. “His is the most well-documented case we have outside of Iran,” Ghaemi told Reuters.

Mohammad Javad Larijani, secretary-general of the Iranian high council for human rights, told the U.N. human rights forum on Thursday that torture and other abuses were banned in Iran.

Earlier this month, an independent expert accused the U.N. rights forum of turning a blind eye to killings in much of the world while concentrating on alleged abuses by Israel.

Editing by Janet Lawrence