Shaheed sidesteps Iran’s visa block with European tour

United Nations Special Rapporteur on Iran, Dr Ahmed Shaheed, will meet with Iranian activists living in France, Germany and Belgium this week to investigate alleged human rights abuses. Iran’s Majlis blocked Shaheed from entering the country upon his appointment as special rapporteur in June, arguing that the US, Britain and Zionist regimes should be investigated instead.

“A visit to the Islamic Republic of Iran would have allowed me to gain better understanding of the situation,” Shaheed said in a statement.

In July, the secretary general of Iran’s High Council for Human Rights dismissed “the western-engineered appointment” of Dr Shaheed as Special Rapporteur as “an illegal measure,” according to the Tehran Times.

“Iran has no problem with the individual who has been appointed as the special rapporteur, but the appointment of a rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran is unacceptable and Iran will not accept the decision,” Mohammad Javad Larijani was quoted as saying.

Undeterred by Iran’s rejection, Shaheed said he will overcome the obstacle by studying “a wide range of human rights issues by meeting activists within the Iranian diaspora, alleged victims of human rights violations, intergovernmental and civil society organisations.”

Speaking to Minivan News in July, Shaheed said it was common practice for country-specific special rapporteurs to have difficulty getting into their target country.

“Often the country itself feels unfairly singled out for scrutiny, or that they don’t have a problem,” he said. “This is always a challenge, but by and large they come around in the end. The last time a Special Rapporteur was in Iran was in 1996. Countries eventually come round, but it takes time.”

The tour will last from November 30 to December 8.

Dr Shaheed formerly served the Maldives as Foreign Minister under both the current and former Presidents. He assumed duties as special rapporteur in August this year.

Though unable to enter Iran, in September of this year he filed an interim report for the UN claiming “systemic violations of fundamental human rights” as understood by first-hand testimonies.

In his report, Shaheed provided evidence that the Iranian government had secretly executed hundreds of prisoners at the notorious Vakilabad prison in Mashhad. These and other executions were allegedly done without the knowledge or presence of family and lawyers.

Shaheed also noted that human rights defenders, civil society organisations and religious actors had been charged with offences including acting against national security, insulting the Supreme Leader and “spreading propaganda against the regime.”

Reports of detained media personnel and human rights violations in prisons have leaked to the press in the past several months. On November 21, the Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly (GA) adopted a resolution calling for the Iranian government to reconcile listed violations.

Mohammad Javad Larijani, Iran’s highest human rights official, had spent the previous week defending Iran’s record.

Following his tour of inquiry Shaheed will report back to the Human Rights Council in March 2012.