Iran and Special Human Rights Rapporteur

Monday, June 20, 2011

Mahmoud Reza Golshanpazhooh
Executive Editor of Iran Review

In the last day of its latest meeting, the Human Rights Council finally appointed Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, the former foreign minister of Maldives, as special human rights rapporteur on Iran. Western countries’ support for the former Muslim foreign minister greatly helped him overtake two other contestants for the post: the former Italian ambassador to Iran and a Sudanese human rights lawyer.

The following points are noteworthy with regard to this development and its consequences.


Appointment of the rapporteur followed adoption of a resolution in April 2011, which was approved by the Human Rights Council through 22 ayes, 7 nays and 14 abstentions according to which a special rapporteur was to oversee situation of human rights in Iran. This is the first time in its 5-year record that the Council has appointed a special rapporteur on a country. The existing human rights rapporteurs on North Korea and Myanmar were appointed by its predecessor, the Human Rights Commission. It should be noted that the mandate of Maurice Copithorne, who had been appointed by the Commission as the second special human rights rapporteur on Iran, expired in 2002 when the Commission failed to adopt a resolution against Tehran. Even in early meetings of the Human Rights Council, there was no willingness to appoint special rapporteurs to monitor human rights situation in some countries, including Iran, because Universal Periodic Review mechanism was considered efficient enough. However, only a few years later, the Council decided to enforce international oversight over the situation of human rights in Iran.


The west has spread out its human rights cards against Iran in a very dexterous manner during past years and against every achievement of Iran, a new front has been opened. After the Human Rights Commission failed to adopt further resolutions, the west continued human rights pressures through the General Assembly (as substitute to Commission’s resolutions). Gradually, every resolution asked the secretary-general to present an annual report on the situation of human rights in Iran (substitute for human rights rapporteurs). Three years later, the General Assembly required the secretary-general to present an interim report to the Human Rights Council. The resolution for the appointment of special rapporteur was passed on the basis of those reports and the special rapporteur is now in office. A Muslim rapporteur has been intentionally chosen, perhaps, on the assumption that he would have a better grasp of Iran’s legal norms and that he will be in a better position to interact with the Iranian government. Being a Muslim will also increase the cost of possible rejection by Iran.


A glimpse at Mr. Shaheed’s biography will introduce him a liberal person. He is a graduate of doctoral course in international relations from Queensland University. As foreign minister of Maldives, his country acceded to the highest number of international human rights instruments and also acceded to the Human Rights Council. Most interestingly, he was given Muslim Democrat of the Year Award in 2009 by Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID). He also managed to rescind a former decision by the Maldives’ High Council of Islamic Affairs for the rejection of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


When it comes to human rights, we need a serious and energetic initiative. Our current approach to human rights resolutions and reports against us does not seem to produce tangible results for the country. Human rights are directly related to international credit of the Islamic system. Therefore, passivity, simplicity, and lack of initiative in this sphere in addition to rejecting resolutions on grounds that they are politically motivated will only cause the Islamic system to lose opportunities and face further limitations.

During the past few years, the Islamic Republic of Iran has been under mounting pressure from the west in relation to human rights. It would not be helpful to assume that consecutive resolutions adopted against Iran are all in vain. Let’s not forget that many instances that are mentioned as Iran’s violation of human rights obligations can be eliminated with good initiative and skillful management of the situation. Appointment of a human rights rapporteur on a country, per se, is not a welcome development. After having failed to prevent adoption of the special rapporteur resolution by the Council, we may well prevent the west from heightening pressures on Iran through suitable planning and a more constructive and strategic approach.

Two Conclusions:

Firstly, the dominant trend in ordinary sessions of the Human Rights Council on Libya, Ivory Coast and Syria during the preceding year proves that integration of human rights with international peace and security has been accelerated. As a result, the Security Council may enter into human rights cases.

Secondly, let’s not forget that the world public opinion considers special rapporteur a positive personality who has been trusted by the international system to help with improving human rights situation. That image should be taken into account when adopting any possible policy by Iran. As put by Baudrillard, images and attitudes are currently much more important than realities.

طراحی و توسعه آگاه‌سیستم