U.N. rights chief concerned by harsher Iran crackdown

Dec 9, 20090 comments

THRN12GENEVA (Reuters) – United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay voiced concern on Tuesday that Iran is using more force to suppress protests and urged the Islamic republic to respect opposition supporters’ right to protest. “The suppression of protests is escalating, it is much more serious,” Pillay told Reuters. She also said that a senior Iranian human rights official, who had requested a meeting with her, set for Tuesday, had cancelled it. “We are really helpless when a country is closed — Iran is one of them. It is very defensive when we raise issues but we will continue to raise them.” An Iranian judiciary official said on Tuesday that Iran will “show no mercy” towards opposition protesters seen as threatening national security. A nationwide rally on Monday to mark the killing of three students under the Shah turned violent when students clashed with security forces armed with batons and tear gas in the largest anti-government protests in months. The protests were a fresh show of force following demonstrations after the June re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, which the opposition says he won by rigging the vote. Dozens of people were arrested and several hurt in clashes in different Iranian cities on Monday. The protests in Tehran were smaller than the post-election rallies but the mood seemed more radical with protesters chanting slogans against the clerical establishment and not just criticising Ahmadinejad’s re-election. Pillay, speaking earlier at a news conference, said that in recent months she had raised concerns with Iran’s ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva and had written to the authorities in Iran “calling for respect for the right to protest”. The South African judge and former U.N. war crimes judge said that she was reviewing the fairness of trials of people arrested in the post-election violence, which had led to some receiving death penalties or severe prison terms. “I also drew attention to the trials that are going on. There are very severe penalties that are being imposed,” Pillay said. “I’ve asked about the mode of those trials and I’m examining whether there has been fair trial.” Pillay’s department relies on a variety of sources, including the Human Rights Council’s own independent experts, to investigate cases and does not depend solely on national authorities for information. Thousands of people were arrested in the June protests. Most have since been freed, but more than 80 have so far been sentenced to up to 15 years in jail and five people have been sentenced to death. Source: http://in.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idINIndia-44568220091208