Iran Human RightsPettigrew targets Iran rights record

Pettigrew targets Iran rights record

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Toronto Star: Canada’s foreign affairs minister will today demand that Iran take action to improve its record on human rights. “The human rights violations in Iran are serious and
they must stop,” Pierre Pettigrew will say in a speech to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. The country has failed to implement many of its international obligations with respect to human rights, the foreign minister will say, according to a text of his speech obtained by the Toronto Star. Toronto Star

GRAHAM FRASER – NATIONAL AFFAIRS WRITER

OTTAWA — Canada’s foreign affairs minister will today demand that Iran take action to improve its record on human rights.

“The human rights violations in Iran are serious and they must stop,” Pierre Pettigrew will say in a speech to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.

The country has failed to implement many of its international obligations with respect to human rights, the foreign minister will say, according to a text of his speech obtained by the Toronto Star.

And the time has come for Iran to “show its willingness” to address its record.

Pettigrew’s tough words come just more than a week after Prime Minister Paul Martin and U.S. President George W. Bush discussed Iran during a Saturday morning phone call that covered topics including missile defence, trade issues and the Middle East.

For almost two years, Canada has been protesting Iran’s response to the murder of Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi, who died in Iranian custody after she was arrested in June 2003 for taking photographs outside Tehran’s Evin prison during student-led protests.

Last July, Iran acquitted the Iranian intelligence agent charged with killing Kazemi, claiming instead the 54-year-old from Montreal died from a fall after her blood pressure dropped because of a hunger strike.

Foreign Affairs officials threw their support behind the Kazemi family’s efforts to convince Iranian officials to reopen the investigation.

And they hinted that further action might be taken to protest Iran’s handling of the case.

Canada sponsored resolutions at the U.N. condemning Iran’s actions, and temporarily recalled its ambassador to Iran in protest.

Today, Pettigrew is taking another step and calling for what he terms “a coherent, complete plan” to promote and protect human rights — and he’s urging the U.N. commission to consider the human rights situation in each U.N. member state.

“First of all, the promotion and protection of human rights must be integrated into all U.N. activities,” Pettigrew will say, congratulating Canada’s Louise Arbour, the U.N. Commissioner for Human Rights, for her work with humanitarian agencies in Darfur region in Sudan.

“Canada will thus support all measures to achieve greater integration of human rights into the work of the U.N. and the strengthening of human rights structures.

“But there is also need to ensure the international community has both the will and the capacity to respond effectively and quickly to crises where crimes against humanity and war crimes are committed and the protection of civilians is threatened and human rights violated.”

Pettigrew will tell the U.N. that Canada is increasing its support for Arbour’s office by $5 million over the next five years.

Canada’s renewed criticism of Iran comes as the United States has reached an agreement with the European Union on providing incentives to Iran to give up its nuclear program.

On Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters that the Iranians have an obligation to demonstrate that they are not developing a nuclear weapon under the guise of civilian nuclear power development.

“.. (the) key here was to establish with our European allies a common agenda, a common approach to the issue of getting the Iranians to live up to the international obligations which they have undertaken,” Rice said.

The U.S. has agreed to support Iran’s membership in the World Trade Organization and will consider allowing it to license commercial aircraft parts if it agrees to permanently halt the enrichment of uranium that can be used to make nuclear bombs.

However, the New York Times reported last week that Hassan Rowhani, Iran’s senior negotiator, told a conference in Tehran on the previous weekend that Iran would never agree to permanently stop enriching uranium.

Foreign Affairs officials said on Friday that Pettigrew would also be addressing nuclear proliferation and Iran in a statement on disarmament at the U.N. today.

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