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UN: Hold Ahmadinejad Accountable for Iran Rights Crisis

Executions Increase Almost 300 Percent, Persecution of Rights Defenders Intensifies

Under the administration of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, basic human rights protection in Iran has deteriorated to new lows, Human Rights Watch and the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said in a briefing paper released today.

The new paper, “Iran Rights Crisis Escalates: Faces and Cases from Ahmadinejad’s Crackdown,” documents the dire situation for human rights defenders and key dimensions of the human rights crisis in Iran today. Released ahead of Ahmadinejad’s arrival at the opening ceremonies of the UN General Assembly, the paper highlights Iran’s status as the world leader in juvenile executions. Iran is known to have executed six juvenile offenders so far in 2008, and more than 130 other juvenile offenders have been sentenced to death and are awaiting execution.

“Iran’s determination to execute juvenile offenders in such large numbers is cruel, barbaric, and earns it a medal of shame,” said Hadi Ghaemi, coordinator of the International Campaign for Human Rights. “It is time to abolish the death penalty for children in Iran.”

The report also notes the skyrocketing number of total executions under Ahmadinejad. In July 2008, 29 men were hanged on a single day, but the authorities announced the names of only 10 of them. The number of executions has nearly quadrupled under Ahmadinejad’s presidency, rising from 86 cases in 2005 to 317 cases in 2007 – almost a 300-percent increase.

Prosecution of dissidents for their peaceful beliefs and opinions has also intensified in recent years. Human rights defenders are routinely harassed and imprisoned for reporting and documenting rights violations.

“Iran should release all political prisoners and end its suppression of dissent,” said Akbar Ganji, an Iranian journalist and former political prisoner.

Iranian authorities have systematically thwarted peaceful and legal civil society efforts to advocate for women’s rights. Women’s rights advocates have been beaten, harassed, persecuted, and prosecuted.

“Despite harsh government repression, Iranian women are increasingly demanding their rights,” said Mehrangiz Kar, a prominent Iranian lawyer and women’s rights scholar.

Ahmadinejad’s Intelligence Ministry has targeted Iranians who have active professional ties abroad, accusing them of being agents of Western efforts to instigate a “velvet revolution” in Iran. Three Iranians with academic ties to US institutions are currently being held and interrogated. Arash and Kamiar Alei are world-renowned AIDS physicians who have been in arbitrary detention since June 22, 2008. Mehdi Zakerian, a legal scholar who was scheduled to teach at the University of Pennsylvania this semester, was detained by security agents three weeks ago. The authorities have not provided any information about his situation.

“Arbitrary detentions of scholars harm Iran’s cultural and educational ties with the outside world,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa division. “Ahmadinejad should end the persecution of Iranian academics and intellectuals.”

The paper concludes that the human cost of Ahmadinejad’s policies is registering a heavy toll on Iran’s most vital nongovernmental sectors. It is imperative for the international community to take up the opportunity of Ahmadinejad’s presence at the United Nations to voice its concerns about the increasingly grave human rights violations in Iran.

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