06/22/2006, 00.00
IRAN - UN
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Persecutor of journalists, scholars, to represent Iran on Human Rights Council

by Dariush Mirzai

Saeed Mortazavi, Tehran's attorney-general, will sit on the Iranian delegation. He is infamous for closing down newspapers and persecuting reformist intellectuals. His involvement in the "Kazemi affair" – the rape, torture and killing in prison of an Iranian-Canadian photographer – has drawn protests from Ottawa's Foreign Affairs Minister.

Tehran (AsiaNews) – He has shut down newspapers, persecuted journalists and intellectuals, and was implicated in the murder of a photographer. And now he will sit on delegation to the new UN Human Rights Council, which is set to start deliberations in Geneva in the coming days. Iran was one of a handful states, including Israel and the United States, which did vote for the creation of this institution, set to replace the Human Rights Commission. However, the Iranian delegation in Geneva was quick to make mellifluous statements, saying human rights were "a major development facing world nations", and urging "governments to attempt safeguard human rights as a necessity of the present age". About the UN Council, the delegation even said it "should be strongly supported by all countries" and "Iran intends to cooperate closely" with this institution.

These statements were not made by the head of the delegation, Karimi-Rad, the Iranian Minister of Justice (also spokesman of the judiciary authority), but by the infamous Saeed Mortazavi, Tehran's attorney general, renowned for having imprisoned many Iranian journalists under the Khatami presidency, for persecuting reformist academics and even for playing a key role in the "Kazemi affair", involving the torture, rape and killing in a Teheran prison of an Iranian-Canadian female photographer. So Mortazavi's presence on the delegation of Iran is held by many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to be a provocation, and protest rallies are planned for today in Geneva. Not only NGOs are upset: Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister has described it as an "offence" and has condemned the presence in such a setting of a person accused of falsifying documents relating to the death of Zahra Kazemi.

For him, those who deny the Holocaust are exercising their right to freedom of expression, but those who oppose Islamic dress rules, especially the veil for women, are violating human rights! Mortazavi said so, together with many criticisms about CIA violations, and above all, about the use of human rights for political purposes, something the West does. They are guilty of "Islamophobia".

Before leaving Tehran, this man, who has had dozens of writers and journalists arrested, said "human rights in its true sense are a holy concept". A few days earlier, the Supreme Guide Khamenei praised freedom of expression in a lyrical speech. In Iran, faced with such declarations, only a handful of people believe in this rhetoric or even pay any attention to it. But in the world, represented by the UN Human Rights Council with more than 100 high-level delegations present, this strikes a discordant note, and is even a cause for scandal. A provocation – to what end? It's difficult to imagine how Iranian interests stand to gain from this, but clearly, the credibility of the UN and of human rights is under attack.
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