Iran Human RightsIran seen as evasive, legalistic at UN rights panel

Iran seen as evasive, legalistic at UN rights panel

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Reuters: Iran avoided the most difficult questions at a long-awaited appearance before the U.N. Human Rights Committee, members said on Thursday, with Iranian officials failing to respond or hiding behind long-winded legalese.

GENEVA, Nov 3 (Reuters) – Iran avoided the most difficult questions at a long-awaited appearance before the U.N. Human Rights Committee, members said on Thursday, with Iranian officials failing to respond or hiding behind long-winded legalese.

“For some questions they were embarrassed and they didn’t answer, especially when I raised the question of the death penalty, they didn’t answer,” committee member Christine Chanet said at a news conference.

“When I asked about stoning there was no answer at all about this question,” added Chanet, a French judge and rights expert.

The U.N. watchdog, composed of 18 independent experts, voiced concern at “continuing reports of harassment or intimidation, prohibition and forceful breaking up of demonstrations, and arrests and arbitrary detentions of human rights defenders” in the Islamic Republic.

Iran’s motivation for returning to face the committee after an 18-year hiatus was as unexplained as its policies on the death penalty, torture and gay and lesbian rights.

Chanet said she had no idea if there would be any follow-up or if the Iranian delegation would come back again.

It was also unclear how representative of Iran’s government the delegation was.

“There were many members of this delegation, so it’s very difficult to know with this kind of country who is looking at the other one. They are watching each other. I don’t know how … the composition of the delegation was reflecting the situation of political power in Iran,” Chanet said.

The committee probes countries’ legal systems and practices to see if they comply with U.N. standards, which are set out in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Other countries scrutinised in the committee’s latest session, which started on Oct. 17 and runs until Friday, were Kuwait, Malawi, Norway and Jamaica.

The committee does not have any ability to punish a country whose rules don’t come up to scratch. But its report feeds into higher-level debate at the United Nations, where a country’s human rights record can lead to sanctions against it.

Chanet said the only thing that surprised her about the way the Iranian delegation handled the committee’s questions was that, unlike officials from many other countries with poor human rights records, they were polite.

“Usually they are violent. They (the Iranians) were not violent. They did not take this kind of approach. They wanted to be technical but when it was too difficult to answer they would avoid the answer and not answer at all,” she said.

“They knew very well how to avoid the questions, especially the questions (about) the situation of women.”

Another question that went unanswered was the allegation that some homosexuals are forced to undergo sex change operations in Iran, where homosexuality is illegal. (Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Stephanie Nebehay and Mark Heinrich)

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