ADAPP Successfully Submits Document for Inclusion in the UN’s Universal Periodic Review of Iran
Association for the Defense of Azerbaijani Political Prisoners in Iran
February 25, 2009
By: Farzin Farzad
The OHCHR has recognized the Association for the Defense of Azerbaijani Political Prisoners in Iran (ADAPP) in the foremost instrument for reviewing human rights records of countries conducted by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHCR). The 5-page submission from ADAPP regarding Iran’s abuse of linguistic, cultural and human rights for Iranian Azerbaijanis was one of a select group of documents to be included in the preliminary documents for the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ (OHCHR) Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Iran, which was conducted on the morning of February 15, 2010.The UNHCR has not reviewed Iran to this caliber in roughly 10 years.
The Universal Periodic Review was created on March 15, 2006 and aims to address the human rights record of all of its 192 member states once every four years. The goal of the UPR is to raise awareness of human rights violations in hopes of alleviating the harsh practices conducted by the state that is being reviewed. The UPR addresses human rights records in accordance with principles addressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN Charter, and various pledges made by the reviewed country. The reviews are conducted by 47 member states of the Human Rights Council (UNHCR) and assisted by three member states who act as rapporteurs known as a “troika”. Iran’s troika of rapporteurs consisted of Pakistan, Senegal and Mexico.
Prior to the February 15 review of Iran, various NGOs working on behalf of human rights in Iran submitted 5-page reports addressing specific issues facing Iranian society (i.e. ethnic minority rights, women’s rights, religious rights). ADAPP’s submission (link) was chosen as one of 67 “stakeholder’s submissions” (which included submissions from groups representing Kurds, Ahwazis, Baluchis, religious minorities, womens’ rights organizations etc.) by various NGOs to be included in a preliminary stakeholders’ summary (link) of Iran’s human rights record complied on November 30, 2009 by the OHCHR.
ADAPP was directly referenced in the stakeholders’ summary. The document includes the following excerpts from ADAPP’s submission: “The Association for the Defence of Azerbaijani Political Prisoners (ADAPP) noted that in many cases, Azerbaijani rights activists were detained arbitrarily by the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence for an indefinite period of time.” (paragraph 27) “ADAPP highlighted that the Azerbaijani language is banned in schools, Azerbaijani language journals and journals calling for the proliferation of Azerbaijani linguistic and cultural rights are shut down and contributors arrested. Azerbaijanis are barred from political representation, deprived economically and face high illiteracy rates. Shops with Azerbaijani Turkish names are effectively shut down and forced to ‘Persianize’ the names. Many advocates of broader linguistic and cultural rights for Azerbaijanis are detained arbitrarily, held indefinitely and tortured, on occasion murdered, in custody, and released only to be tried and sentenced to heavy terms in Iran’s worst prisons such as Evin Prison” (paragraph 69).
Iran’s UPR faces various problems
While ADAPP touts the inclusion of Azerbaijani rights in the UPR as a huge step toward raising awareness of minority rights issues in Iran, we contend that the UPR process is still ridded with problems and fear that the UPR will fail to prevent Iran’s human rights violations.
The primary cause for concern was Iran’s gross misrepresentation of its human rights record and its denial of all human rights abuses. The Islamic Republic of Iran sent a 33-member delegation led by Dr. Mohammad Javad Larijani (Head of Iran’s High Council for Human Rights) and presented a national report that highlighted Iran’s human rights record. According to the OHCHR, (link) Iran’s 31-page national report expressed that human rights were enshrined in the constitution, there is active participation of women in government, and close to 70 percent of prison sentences were related to drug offenses and trafficking this year. During the “interactive discussion” between the delegation and member states, Iran continued to deny detaining political prisoners. Furthermore, the delegation made no reference to alleviating the concerns of ethnic minorities in its response to recommendations by member states.
The Islamic Republic’s blatant denial of detaining political prisoners is a completely inaccurate claim, especially when analyzing the numerous cases in which Azerbaijanis have been detained arbitrarily for the promotion of linguistic and cultural rights. Famed Azerbaijani activist Said Matinpour, was originally detained arbitrarily by Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) for 278 days, held in solitary confinement during that period, drugged on numerous accounts, and brutally tortured to falsely confess to crimes against the state. His false confession was used in court and as a result, he was sentenced to 8 years at Evin Prison, a term which he is currently serving. Matinpour has done nothing more than advocate for linguistic and cultural rights. He is in dire need of medical attention, which prison authorities refuse to allow. Another Azerbaijani activist, Behrouz Alizadeh, received numerous electric shocks to his stomach and was water-boarded during his arbitrary detention by MOIS agents. He, too, is now serving a prison sentence. During their detentions, Azerbaijanis are denied proper access to legal counsel and visits from their families.
The Iranian delegation took an active role in denying discrimination and ethnic tensions exist within the country. Iran’s national report asserted that though Farsi is the official language of Iran, “several ethnic, linguistic and religious minorities also live in Iran and enjoy equally the rights and privileges accorded to all Iranian citizens by law”. They also claimed that the Constitution protected “human dignity, political and civil rights that include democracy, prohibition of depriving people of their fundamental freedoms, rights of minorities, the non-discrimination principle, equality before the law, women’s rights , prohibition of investigation of people’s belief, freedom of expression, respect for the privacy of people, freedom of political parties and peaceful assemblies, prohibition of arbitrary arrests, prohibition on banishment of people, the right to have recourse to the courts, the right to choose legal counsel, presumption of innocence, respect for the dignity of arrested persons, economic, social and cultural rights and the environment right.” ADAPP asserts that language rights are the most basic requirement for freedom of expression. In the case of Azerbaijanis, most of the aforementioned constitutional guarantors are violated.
There was also cause for concern that Iran’s allies used the forum to scold the West (link). According to CNSNews, while western nations were calling for inquiries into the post-election violence ahead of Iran’s May 2010 election for a seat on the Human Rights Council, envoys from Nicaragua, Venezuela and Cuba claimed that Iran was a victim of Western imperialism while the Pakistani and Algerian envoys made references to the UPR process being politicized to disfavor Iran. Even Iran’s troika of rapporteurs–Pakistan, Senegal and Mexico–are ripe with human rights violations of their own.
Despite the inefficiencies of the UPR, however, ADAPP is optimistic for the future of linguistic, cultural and minority rights in Iran. The inclusion of Iranian Azerbaijanis in the summary document is a leap in the right direction and brings much needed international attention to this issue.