Commentary Magazine


Topic: executions

Executions Skyrocket in Iran

Ahmed Shaheed, a former Maldives foreign minister whom the United Nations appointed as its investigator on Iran has, according to Reuters, now issued his report:

Iran executed some 670 people last year, most of them for drug crimes that do not merit capital punishment under international law and more than 20 for offenses against Islam… The investigator, former Maldives Foreign Minister Ahmed Shaheed, also reported what he said were a wide range of violations by Iran of U.N. human rights accords, from abuse of minorities to persecution of homosexuals and labor unions.

Shaheed’s report was almost never issued. As Reuters continued:

His office and mandate were established last year by a narrow vote in the council when Western and Latin American countries, with some African support, joined to create a special investigation on Iran. Cuba, Russia, China and others opposed the resolution.

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Ahmed Shaheed, a former Maldives foreign minister whom the United Nations appointed as its investigator on Iran has, according to Reuters, now issued his report:

Iran executed some 670 people last year, most of them for drug crimes that do not merit capital punishment under international law and more than 20 for offenses against Islam… The investigator, former Maldives Foreign Minister Ahmed Shaheed, also reported what he said were a wide range of violations by Iran of U.N. human rights accords, from abuse of minorities to persecution of homosexuals and labor unions.

Shaheed’s report was almost never issued. As Reuters continued:

His office and mandate were established last year by a narrow vote in the council when Western and Latin American countries, with some African support, joined to create a special investigation on Iran. Cuba, Russia, China and others opposed the resolution.

I am completing a book project on the history of diplomacy with rogue regimes, as part of which I’ve had the nerdy pleasure to pour over decades of diplomatic cables, Iranian newspaper, and human rights reports. It is distressing, therefore, to see a pattern develop which proponents of greater dialogue with the Islamic Republic ignore: There is a direct correlation between the degree to which the West seeks to engage and embrace the Islamic Republic and the ferocity with which the regime cracks down on its own people. The Khatami years, for example, were a particularly bloody time. That may not be Khatami’s direct fault: The reformist president’s hands are awash in blood, but it was the reaction to his efforts to relieve some of the social pressure that sparked his opponents in the intelligence ministry and Basij to even greater abuse of human rights.

Going further back in time, the reaction to German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel’s 1992 efforts at “critical dialogue” led Iranian officials—including the so-called pragmatist Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani—to believe he could get away with murder. Their followed a crackdown at home and a series of assassinations and terrorist attacks abroad.

The responsibility for Iran’s dire human rights abuses lay fully on the regime that perpetrates them. Nevertheless, it would behoove the Obama administration and its counterparts in the European Union to recognize that sometimes engaging a rogue regime does more harm than good to the people who suffer under that regime’s heel. Often times, the better course of action both in terms of national security and human rights is simply to develop strategies to change that regime.

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