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Iran: Human Rights

Volume 754: debated on Tuesday 10 June 2014

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they have taken to co-ordinate international representations about the execution of Mr Gholamreza Khossravi Savadjani, a political prisoner in Iran’s Evin Prison, and about the use of capital punishment and the human rights situation in Iran.

My Lords, we are aware of the execution of Gholamreza Khossravi on 1 June this year. The right to life is a fundamental human right and the UK opposes the use of the death penalty in all circumstances. The UK continues to call on the Iranian Government to implement a moratorium on the death penalty and to guarantee the rights and freedoms of all Iranians.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his Answer. It is quite disappointing in so far as what seems to dominate is the relationship that his Government want to have with Mr Rouhani. Will he acknowledge that since President Rouhani was elected there have been more than 550 executions? They are running now at the rate of two a day. The influence of Rouhani across the frontier in Iraq has led to killings running at the rate of about 1,000 a month with 4,000 Iraqis being injured. All in all, since we intervened in Iraq not so many years ago, do we not have a responsibility to Iraq and Iran to make amends by standing up and publicly and internationally exposing the injustice to the people we left behind?

My Lords, I think the noble Lord’s last remark is a reference to the PMOI. I recognise that it is a linked issue. The UN rapporteur’s most recent report on human rights in Iran demonstrates that human rights in Iran continue to be awful and that Iran is the second most frequent executor of prisoners in the world after China and indeed, in terms of size of population, the largest. We have no illusions on the quality of prison life, the use of torture or the absence of an adequate rule of law within Iran. Nevertheless, Iran is a complex political structure. It is not as simple a dictatorship as some of the states with which we have to deal. We think it is worth while pursuing an opening with the new president, and we are cautiously and carefully negotiating to see what is possible. The noble Lord shakes his head, but I think we have learnt from our experience in Iraq that blundering into a country with a large army and overthrowing the regime does not always lead to a much better outcome. Evolution is better than revolution.

My Lords, does my noble friend recollect that when the present president was elected, there was widespread expectation that he would introduce a more humane and moderate regime in Iran? In the light of the disappointments—to put it mildly—which have since been evidenced in that country, what recent discussions have Her Majesty’s Government had with the Government of the United States of America who share jointly with us some responsibility for what is going on?

My Lords, we have close and continuing discussions with the United States on Iran, as on other Middle Eastern questions. I am conscious that one of my colleagues was talking to his American opposite number yesterday. We deal with many states across the world whose record on human rights is imperfect, if not awful. Nevertheless, we have to deal with them and try our best to improve their record.

My Lords, will my noble friend bring some pressure to bear on the Iranian regime to ensure that the UN special rapporteur, Mr Ahmed Shaheed, is admitted and granted a visa so that he can examine precisely what is going on in some of the penal establishments in Iran?

My Lords, we are doing so and recognise that that is an enormous problem. That issue was flagged in his most recent report.

My Lords, it is important to emphasise that Islam has accepted all preceding religions and has absolutely denounced killing. Therefore, what they are doing in Iran is un-Islamic and abhorrent, as is the case in Saudi Arabia and many other countries. For a country that is ruling in the name of a religion, it is crucial to point out in the discussions that what they are doing does not adhere to the faith that they claim to support.

My Lords, I entirely agree with that. We have to remember that there is something of a civil society in Iran, in spite of the current regime. Iran has an ancient civilisation and much pride in that ancient civilisation. The persecution of minorities—both religious minorities such as the Baha’i and ethnic minorities such as the Ahwazi Arabs—is also a stain on the current Iranian regime. We know that there are many people in Tehran and elsewhere who likewise disapprove of that. We continue to make our case.

My Lords, has the Minister had a chance to look at the letter sent to him at the Foreign Office by his noble friend Lord Carlile of Berriew last weekend? It concerns not just the death of Mr Savadjani, but a number of members of the Iranian resistance who are currently scheduled for execution. In the light of what the Minister has just said about the plight of the Baha’is, would he like to make some further comment about the execution of Baha’i believers in Iran?

My Lords, we have condemned extremely strongly the persecution of the Baha’i. There are still, as the noble Lord knows, a large number in prison. I have not seen my noble friend Lord Carlile’s letter; I will look at it and will write to the noble Lord.