Archive for May, 2009

Annual Report on religious freedom-US Commission

Monday, May 4th, 2009


United States Commission on International Religious Freedom has just released its 2009 annual report. The report, which is the most comprehensive in the Commission’s decade-long life, recommends that President Obama designate Burma, Democratic People‘s Republic of Korea, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, People‘s Republic of China, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam as ‘countries of particular concern’ for serious violations of religious freedom, and offers policy suggestions for each country.

Religious freedom in Iran worsened – US Commission

Monday, May 4th, 2009

Religious freedom in Iran worsened – US Commission

Updated: Friday, May 01, 2009
13:30GMT—9:30 AM/EST

Washington, 1 May (WashingtonTV)—Religious freedom conditions in Iran have “worsened” during the past year, Dr. Richard Land, a commissioner with the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom [USCIRF], said on Friday during a press conference announcing the release of that commission’s annual report.

“In Iran, government rhetoric and actions worsened conditions for nearly all non-Shi’a religious groups, most notably for the Baha’is, as well as Sufi Muslims, evangelical Christians, and members of the Jewish community. The Commission has decided to designate Iran as a country of particular concern again because the situation has worsened,” said Land.

He added that the Iranian Parliament has been considering a law since September 2008, which includes a bill enshrining the death penalty for apostasy. “This proposed penal code should be rescinded,” said Land.

“The Commission urges the US government to call for the release of Muslim minorities and dissidents, including those Sufi Muslims in prison, as well as Ayatollah Boroujerdi, a senior Shi’a cleric who advocates the separation of religion and state,” he continued.

“The government of Iran continues to engage in systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom, including prolonged detention, torture, and executions based on primarily or entirely upon the religion of the accused,” USCIRF’s 2009 report concluded.

The Commission recommended designating 13 nations on the list of “countries of particular concern” [CPC], including Iran, Burma, China, Eritrea, Iraq, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam.

Iran has been designated as a CPC by the US State Department since 1999.

USCIRF is a bipartisan federal commission, whose commissioners are appointed by the President of the United States and the US Congress.

The USCIRF provides recommendations to President Barack Obama’s administration, the US State Department, and members of Congress regarding ways in which US policy can promote human rights and religious freedom in nations the Commission identifies as the world’s most severe religious rights abusers.

The report recommends that the US government should “at the highest levels” speak out about the deteriorating conditions of religious freedom in Iran, as well as during discussions with representatives of the Iranian government.

After the conclusion of the press conference, Land told WashingtonTV that the issue of religious freedom in Iran “has to be on the table,” during any talks between the United States and Iran, in the same way that human rights was on the table in US negotiations with the former Soviet Union during the Cold War.

“Secretary of State George Schultz always talked about human rights and the right of the [Soviet] refuseniks. And we’ve also made the same kind of stipulation with North Korea, that when it comes to talks with North Korea, that human rights and religious freedom, being one of those human rights, needs to be part of the total package. And that the United States of America and its government should not separate human rights discussions and religious freedom discussions from the other policy concerns,” Land said.

Amnesty International Newsflash: Delara Darabi Executed

Monday, May 4th, 2009

Friday 1 May 2009

Iran: Outrage at execution of Delara Darabi
Delara Darabi

This morning, Iranian authorities executed Delara Darabi in Rasht Central Prison. She is the second person to be executed this year after being convicted of a crime she was alleged to have committed while still under 18, Amnesty International revealed today.

“Amnesty International is outraged at the execution of Delara Darabi, and particularly at the news that her lawyer was not informed about the execution, despite the legal requirement that he should receive 48 hours’ notice. This appears to have been a cynical move on the part of the authorities to avoid domestic and international protests which might have saved Delara Darabi’s life,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme.

Delara Darabi was executed despite her having been given a two-month stay of execution by the Head of the Judiciary on 19 April.

“This indicates that even decisions by the Head of the Judiciary carry no weight and are disregarded in the provinces,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

Delara Darabi was convicted of murdering a relative in 2003 when she was 17. She initially confessed to the murder, believing she could save her boyfriend from the gallows, but later retracted her confession. She was being detained at Rasht Prison in northern Iran since her arrest in 2003, during which time she developed a significant talent as a painter.

Amnesty International does not consider her trial to have been fair, as the courts later refused to consider new evidence which the lawyer said would have proved she could not have committed the murder.

Amnesty International had campaigned for her life since her case came to light in 2006, urging the Iranian authorities to commute her death sentence and calling for a her re-trial in proceedings that meet international standards.

The execution of Delara Darabi brings the number of executions in Iran this year to 140. She is the second woman known to have been executed. Iran has executed at least forty two juvenile offenders since 1990, eight of them in 2008 and one on 21 January 2009, in total disregard of international law, which unequivocally bans the execution of those convicted of crimes committed when under the age of 18.

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