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UN criticises Iran on human rights

TEHRAN, Iran, November 3, 1999 (BBC) -- Iranian state television has reacted angrily to a United  Nations report which says a year of political and social turmoil in Iran has led to an erosion of human rights.

The report by the UN's special rapporteur on Iran, Maurice Copithorne, says there has been some progress towards developing democracy in Iran and that the reformist President, Mohammad Khatami, still appears committed to introducing change.

But, he said the slow rate of implementation is leading to increasing scepticism.

Power Struggle

BBC regional analyst, Pam O'Toole, says the report reflects the power struggle between reformists led by President Khatami and conservatives within the Iranian establishment.

Mr Copithorne highlighted the killing of a number of liberal intellectuals late last year and the subsequent closure of pro reformist newspapers which contributed to major street demonstrations in July.

Iranian television dismissed the accusations saying: "We remind you, that in all previous cases (of such accusations), the Islamic republic has rejected these baseless allegations."

So far there has been no official reaction by Iranian authorities to the UN official's remarks.

Progress towards democracy

Professor Copithorne conceded that some progress was being made in some aspects of human rights, and in the process of developing democracy.

But this was not the case in a number of cases, including the investigation into the killing of the intellectuals and the treatment accorded to students in the aftermath of the demonstrations.

In such cases, he said, the protection of human rights may well have suffered some significant erosion.

The report was also highly critical of what it described as a hostile campaign against the reformist press, which had caused a serious setback to freedom of expression in Iran.

It highlighted the banning of several pro reform newspapers and court cases brought against their editors.

The UN report again expressed concern about continuing human rights violations against minority groups, particularly those belonging to the Bahai faith.

  • It again criticised what it described as an unacceptably high level of executions and the continuing existence of torture.
  • It said there had been little substantive change with regard to the rights of women.