American-Iranian Pastor Saeed Abedini with family 370.
(photo credit: Courtesy ACLJ)
BERLIN – The Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council voted on Friday to extend by
one year the mandate of the special rapporteur on the situation of human rights
The special rapporteur, Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, told The
Jerusalem Post last week that in Iran “groups who hold dissident views, whether
political or other groups, fall into difficulty on national security
Human rights groups have long asserted Iran’s judiciary
imprisons religious and political dissidents based on trumped-up national
Shaheed’s most recent report, released in early March,
alleges “widespread systemic and systematic violations of human rights in the
Islamic Republic of Iran” and “a situation in which civil, political, economic,
social and cultural rights are undermined and violated in law and
The vote on Shaheed’s mandate resulted in 26 countries
supporting the extension, two against the decision and 17 abstentions. Pakistan
and Venezuela rejected the motion.
Iranian Ambassador Mohammad Reza
Sajjadi rejected the decision as “substantially flawed” and said it was aimed at
the “short-sighted political interests of a few countries.”
The motion to
extend Shaheed’s mandate was put forward by Sweden on behalf of the United
States and other nations.
Shaheed said last week that Iran’s silencing of
journalists and opposition leaders could jeopardize the legitimacy of the
presidential election in June.
Iran has not allowed Shaheed to enter the
country. His report was based on 169 interviews with people in and outside the
country, by telephone and video-conferencing.
Shaheed’s report cited the
incarceration of American Pastor Saeed Abedini, who was sentenced to eight years
in prison for practicing Christianity in Iran.
In an interview with the
, US Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Virginia) called on the US government and Secretary
of State John Kerry to “advocate for the pastor” and secure his
Wolf lamented that there is a “general failure of this
administration to advocate for religious minorities in the region.”
said the Baha’i religious minority “are having a very difficult time in Iran”
and urged the administration of US President Barack Obama to enact a bill he
cosponsored with Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-California), that would create a
special envoy position within the State Department to monitor religious
persecution in the Middle East.
The conservative government of Canadian
Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced earlier this month an Office of
Religious Freedom and a religious freedom ambassador to protect the rights of
religious minorities across the globe.
After Wolf held a congressional
hearing in March, Kerry said last week, “I am deeply concerned about the fate of
US citizen Saeed Abedini. I am disturbed by reports that Mr. Abedini has
suffered physical and psychological abuse in prison, and that his condition has
become increasingly dire. Such mistreatment violates international norms as well
as Iran’s own laws.”
Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the American
Center for Law and Justice, the organization representing Abedini and his
family, said, “By becoming directly involved in this case, the US sends a
powerful message to Iran and our allies – our government will not stand by and
abandon one of our own.”
“I am very encouraged by Secretary Kerry’s
statement demanding Saeed’s immediate release,” said Naghmeh, Saeed’s
wife.Reuters contributed to this report.