Too often, our focus on Iran is limited to the high-stakes game of nuclear negotiations, the fiery rhetoric of Iranian leaders, or the extent to which sanctions and sabotage influence Iranian behavior. As a result, Iran’s dire human rights situation receives little attention. This week, however, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, told reporters, diplomats, and activists that “unfair trials, torture of prisoners, repression of journalists, persecution of religious and ethnic minorities, and other abuses continue unabated.” In a statement, Shaheed noted:
“I am concerned that I have not noticed any significant improvement in the human rights situation in Iran. If anything, things have become worse. Reports of torture continue. And they do so, also, as if to say that impunity is part of it. I find very rarely any investigation of allegations of torture, and where there have been done, they have not looked into the actual real perpetrators — the senior-most people who may be found culpable for these — have not been named or have no action taken against them.”
Shaheed is set to release a report later this week detailing the extent of state-sanctioned violations, but he has also been critical of international sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program. According to Shaheed, sanctions are “hindering ordinary Iranians from trying to exercise their human rights, because people must spend more time trying to acquire the basic necessities for life.” Shaheed’s comments echo U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s comments last week that sanctions were having a “significant” effect on the lives of Iranians.