Thursday, 15 January 2009

irishtimes: Government criticises Iran's oppression of minorities

The Government has accused Iran of harassing and oppressing minority religions.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin has sent a firmly worded letter to his Iranian counterpart expressing concerns at the Islamic republic’s overall human rights record.

Mr Martin previously held talks on several issues with Foreign Minister Manoucher Mottaki at the UN General Assembly session in New York in September. In the latest correspondence, the Cork TD claimed human rights protection in Iran is worsening instead of improving.

He also criticised the use of the death penalty and claimed that Iran has executed more teenagers in recent years than any other country.

“Children and minors under the age of 18 should never be subject to the death penalty, including older persons convicted of offences committed as minors.
It is believed that 100 prisoners currently under sentence of death in Iran either are minors or were minors at the time of the offence.

Mr Martin called on Iran to comply with the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The TD also said the Irish Government was also very concerned at the systematic campaign of harassment and oppression directed at members of the minority Baha’i faith.

The minister said members of the religion are randomly arrested by police, are sacked by their employers and have difficulty obtaining burial places.
“I find it particularly shocking that newspapers closely linked to the Government are active leaders in promoting hatred and misrepresentations of fellow Iranians who are members of the Baha’i community,” Mr Martin added.

The letter continued: “It is difficult in these circumstances to avoid the conclusion that the Government and authorities of Iran are actively trying to suppress a religious faith.”

Ireland, as a friend of Iran, has no wish to see its reputation damaged in this way, Mr Martin said.

The TD suggested that the best starting point for the Iranian government to address the issues of concern would be positive engagement with Iranian human rights defenders and with international monitoring mechanisms.“

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