UN expert reports progress on human rights in Iran but says problems

Maurice Copithorne, the Special Representative of the Commission on Human Rights, says that advances are being made in the incorporation of human rights values into Iranian society. “The change in the discourse over the past six years is testimony of progress,” he writes. “In some respects, however, the Government seems to be lagging behind the people, who have made clear, through their elected representatives, their desire for change.”Overall, the report paints a mixed picture of human rights in the country. The sweeping suppression of the mainly reformist press over the past 15 months has had a serious negative impact on the promotion of human rights in the country.”Iranian society has had little experience with civil discourse leading to peaceful change,” Mr. Copithorne says. He calls the treatment of activists and dissidents, particularly by the security forces and the judiciary, “little short of vicious,” saying it “displays a fearful intolerance of alternative views.” The status of women, particularly their legal status, remains highly discriminatory as modest efforts to improve it have been mostly rejected by unelected, conservative political elites, highlighting a stalemate between the elected and unelected branches of government over important policy and legislative decisions concerning reform.Meanwhile, religious and ethnic minorities continue to face official and societal discrimination and in some cases, persecution, according to the report, which documents a “new wave of political prisoners or prisoners of conscience entering Iranian prisons.” The report says Iran is facing a major economic crisis, with inflation, unemployment and poverty among the causes of the deteriorating social condition of most Iranians. “The human rights cost of the crisis is very high,” Mr. Copithorne says. “A comprehensive economic and social development strategy needs to be among the Government’s top priorities.” Yet there are early signs of important change within the legal system, the report points out, even though “there is a long way to go.” The Special Representative expresses support for most of the reforms identified by the Government that would make the Constitution “a more meaningful document.”

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