Sunday, 13 September 2009

Hypocrisy of Human Rights Bodies

On PressTv, Andrew Gilligan hosted a discussion on torture. Guests taking part in the debate included Clare Algar, who is the Executive Director of the human rights organization, Reprieve; and Tom Porteous, the London Director of Human Rights Watch (HRW). It is worth presenting a little background: it is the anniversary of the 1988 massacre of the Iranian political prisoners, and the television station airing the program is funded by the very same government that ordered such massacres, and currently sanctions the rape of unarmed protestors in Iran.

HRW has exposed the violations of human rights by the authorities in Iran; for example, its report of tortured detainees; flogging; and the publication on stoning. As illustrated previously on this blog, stoning has been ruled as one of the gravest forms of torture, which violates Article 7 ICCPR prohibition of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Reprieve is a human rights organization, focusing on detainee rights, including inmates on 'death row'. Reprieve has also published condemnation of juvenile executions in Iran.

At no point during the debate on torture did either one of these two much learned and experienced human rights defenders attempt to discuss the relevant human rights abuses that take place frequently in Iran. In fact, the abuse that takes place in the United States and in the United Kingdom were discussed, in which former intelligence officer, Bob Ayers, defended the use of torture on an accused in order to extract vital information pertaining to an imminent terrorist attack; Porteous and Algar argued against Ayers.

Porteous and Algar are no strangers to the fact that PressTV is an IRI funded and backed media company, and they are well aware of the human rights abuses perpetrated by the very same proprietor of PressTV in Iran. Given their level of seniority and experience, they should have mentioned Iran in their examples of human rights abuses and torture;
at the very least they could have mentioned the torture of the Canadian photo-journalist, Zahra Kazemi, which resulted in her death whilst she was in detention in Iran. However, they did not. Instead, they revealed the hypocrisy that has plagued human rights bodies in that they did not highlight a key perpetrator of the blatant violations of human rights and its binding laws when they were presented with the perfect opportunity to do so; yet behind closed office doors they wrote about such abuses.

Consequently, they have proven to be incompetent when it comes to honouring their duties as human rights defenders. They remained silent on an IRI broadcast on torture, and instead opted to conform to the same old anti-west rhetoric on the abuse of human rights, at a time when they should have spoken - when Iran is rife with torture, arbitrary detention and extra-judicial executions.
They appeared on an IRI platform broadcast, on such a date, and omitted Iran from their debate on torture. It is their duty to discuss Iran, because of who they are and where they were.

As a result, they have stained the credibility of human rights organizations, and have lost the trust of many Iranians who need somewhere to turn to with their reports of further human rights violations. Therefore, in restoring public faith, both Algar and Porteous must issue a public apology at the very least.

For more, and contact details of Porteous and Algar, consult Azarmehr


  1. Great post Mehrtash. It is a sad day when even human rights organisations begin getting involved in politics and forget who they really serve. When those people appear on PressTV, they are legitimising and validating the Mullah's propaganda machine.

  2. Thank you, Arash; it is a great shame indeed. If you can, it would be great for you to complain - you can find their contact details on Azarmehr's link (at the bottom of my post). Such people need to learn that they cannot continue such as they have without facing the consequences and having to take responsibility.

  3. Excellent article - and disgusting behavior by these organizations.