02.15.11

Twenty-four Senators Urge for Establishment of Independent Human Rights Monitor on Iran

WASHINGTON – Twenty-four senators today urged Secretary of State Clinton to work at the United Nations Human Rights Council session, which begins March 1, to establish an independent human rights monitor on Iran. 

In their letter, the senators maintain that an independent human rights monitor achieved some progress in Iran from 1984 to 2002, but that the situation has deteriorated since 2002, when the monitor was removed.   

The following senators signed the letter to Secretary Clinton:  Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), Kirsten E. Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-Penn.), Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), and Tom Udall (D-N.M).

Following is the text of the letter:

February 15, 2011

The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton

Secretary of State

Department of State

2201 C Street NW

Washington, DC 20520

Dear Madam Secretary:

As the United Nations (U.N.) Human Rights Council (HRC) prepares to begin its session on March 1st, we urge you to work at the HRC to establish an independent human rights monitor on Iran. 

The upcoming session of the HRC marks the sixth session since Iran’s June 2009 elections.  While Iran has a long history of human rights abuses, those disputed elections spawned one of the largest popular democracy movements of the 21st Century, and unleashed a subsequent campaign of brutal, systematic human rights violations by Iran’s government.  This government-sanctioned repression continues to this day, yet the HRC has failed to take any concrete measures to address the situation. 

In January 2011 alone, Iran executed at least 83 people, including individuals rounded up in post-election protests and charged with enmity against God.  Human rights defenders, lawyers, and pro-democracy activists continue to be targeted for repression and intimidation by the government. 

State-sponsored persecution of religious minorities persists, including the sentencing last year of seven Baha’i leaders to ten years in prison.  And three American hikers languished in prison for over a year before being charged, and two remain detained to this day.  It is long past time for the HRC to take action to establish a human rights monitor on Iran.

Establishing an independent U.N. human rights monitor charged with monitoring and reporting on Iran’s human rights violations is an important effort to provide some protection for Iran’s human rights and democracy movement.  You will remember that from 1984 to 2002, an independent human rights monitor on Iran was in place, and some measurable progress was achieved on human rights over that time.  However, this mandate has not been renewed since 2002 and since then the situation in Iran has deteriorated. 

It is important that the United States work through multilateral institutions to ensure Iran upholds its international human rights obligations.  We commend the Administration’s efforts to engage the international community regarding human rights violations.  However, human rights violations by the Iranian government continue unabated.  The efforts of the HRC have yet to result in the extension of meaningful protections to the groups and persons being persecuted there. 

There is bipartisan support in Congress for the Administration’s commitment to advance human rights causes in Iran.  We believe it is essential that U.S. membership on the HRC be utilized this March to take an overdue step to address Iran’s human rights crisis by reestablishing an independent human rights monitor to observe and report on the grave situation in the country. 

Thank you for your consideration.

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David Carle: 202-224-3693

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