The European Union/Iran dialogue : an unconvincing process

13/10/2003
Press release
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The third session of the dialogue between the European Union and Iran on human rights was held in Brussels on October 8th and 9th, under the Italian Presidency

FIDH regrets that this third session, as the former ones, did not go beyond a mainly academic exchange of views. The Iranian side gave no token of the will of the authorities to improve substantially the situation of human rights in the country.
The doubts expressed by FIDH at the end of the first two sessions of the dialogue were to a large extent confirmed by the third. The situation in Iran has deteriorated in the past months ; many people are now in jail for having made use of their right to freedom of expression.
Therefore, FIDH calls upon the European Union to carry out a public evaluation of the first three sessions on the basis of the benchmarks it had defined to assess the progress of Iran in the field of human rights.
FIDH also calls upon the European Union to submit, at this time, a draft resolution on the situation of human rights in Iran, to the third committee of the General Assembly of the United Nations. This resolution, by putting an end to the silence and neglect, would give human rights defenders and civil society in Iran the support they need.
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As the first two sessions, this third round table brought together officials and academics from Europe and Iran, as well as representatives of NGOs : FIDH, Amnesty International, Penal Reform International, and, for the first time, Human Rights Watch. On the other hand, FIDH deeply regrets the absence of independent representatives of Iranian civil society at all the sessions of the dialogue.
The topics discussed were freedom of expression and the right to development. Though the second topic did not raise any serious difficulties and led to interesting exchanges of views, one cannot express satisfaction with the discussions on the first, though it is a very urgent issue.
Two questions were particularly emphasized : parliamentary immunity and the freedom of the press.
As regards parliamentary immunity in exercising freedom of expression, the restrictive nature of existing guarantees was underlined. The debate clarified the concept of immunity, which cannot be equated with impunity, but which remains essential in a democratic society, if the Parliament is to exercise control over the Executive.
Some European participants denounced the pressure which might be brought to bear on some candidates to the coming legislative elections.
During the discussions on freedom of the press, the international NGOs recalled the repressive situation that reigns in Iran, particularly as journalists and intellectuals are concerned. The Iranian side opposed these statements by citing the need to ensure public order and certain principles of Islam which are the guide of Iranian policy in this field. FIDH cannot accept this use of the concepts of public order and of the principles of Islam to suppress all dissenting voices.
Furthermore the Iranian side gave no information as to the follow up to the recommendations of the United Nations Working Group on arbitrary detention, even though the group had identified the same arbitrary practices.

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