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بیاینۀ کلینتون، وزیر امور خارجه دربارۀ نقض حقوق بشر به وسیلۀ ایران

Click here for the English version of the Secretary Clinton on Iran’s Continuing Human Rights Violations.

بیاینۀ کلینتون، وزیر امور خارجه

ادامۀ نقض حقوق بشر به وسیلۀ ایران

گزارشهایی که از ادامۀ سرکوب توسط دولت ایران علیه مردم خود حکایت دارند موجبات نگرانی عمیق ایالات متحده را فراهم ساخته اند. علیرغم اظهارات مقام رهبری و رئیس جمهوری ایران دایر بر ادعای حمایت از حقوق و آزادی های شهروندان ایرانی و مردم منطقه، دولت به سرکوب همۀ اشکال دگراندیشی، ابراز عقیده و اجتماعات ادامه می دهد.

ما بویژه از بابت گزارشهای مربوط به صدور حکم اعدام برای کشیش یوسف ندرخانی به اتهام ارتداد، به این سبب که او حاضر به نفی ایمان مذهبی خود نیست، احساس نگرانی می کنیم. این حکم در بحبوحۀ یورشهای خشونت بار علیه پیروان ادیان گوناگون، مشتمل بر زرتشتیان، صوفیان و بهاییان صادرشده است.

دولت ایران به دستگیری روزنامه نگاران و فیلمسازان ادامه می دهد. آنها [مقامات ایرانی] با ایجاد اختلال در پخش برنامه های ماهواره ای و فیلتر کردن اینترنت از دسترسی به اطلاعات جلوگیری می کنند.

ایالات متحده همراه با جامعۀ بین المللی و همۀ ایرانیان مراتب مخالفت خود را با اظهارات و اقدامات ریاکارانۀ دولت ایران ابراز می دارد و ما ایران را همچنان به رعایت حقوق و آزادی های همۀ کسانی که در ایران زندگی می کنند فرا می خوانیم.

 


Ambassador Johnson on Rule of Law: Legislative transparency, Independence of the judiciary, Right to a fair trial

(As prepared for delivery at the OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting, Session 4)

L to R, Amb. Cynthia Efird, Amb. Ian Kelly, Amb. Suzan Johnson Cook, Amb. David Johnson and DAS Thomas Melia, Sept. 26, 2011. Photo by USOSCE/Colin Peters.

L to R, Amb. Cynthia Efird, Amb. Ian Kelly, Amb. Suzan Johnson Cook, Amb. David Johnson and DAS Thomas Melia, Sept. 26, 2011. Photo by USOSCE/Colin Peters.

The rule of law underpins all of our human dimension commitments. Today, we will focus on certain elements of rule of law—legislative transparency, independence of the judiciary and the right to a fair trial. But, I think it is useful to pause for a moment to consider what we mean when we talk about rule of law. In a speech a few years ago while acknowledging the risks of “formulating something too insufficient for the great purpose behind the phrase,” U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, set out a working definition of the rule of law. According to Justice Kennedy, there are three main components:

First: “The law is superior to, and thus binds, the government and all its officials.”

Second: “The law must respect and preserve the dignity, equality, and human rights of all persons. To those ends, the law must establish and safeguard the constitutional structures necessary to build a free society in which all citizens have a meaningful voice in shaping and enacting the rules that govern them.”

And, third: “The law must devise and maintain systems to advise all persons of their right, and it must empower them to fulfill just expectations and seek redress of grievances without fear or penalty and retaliation.”

Where these conditions exist people thrive and economies flourish. Where they do not societies and individuals pay a high price. Where even one of these components is missing, rule of law does not genuinely exist. Consider the words of the former Chief Justice of South Africa, Arthur Chaskalson: “The apartheid government, its officers and agency were accountable in accordance with the laws; the laws were clear, publicized and stable, and were upheld by law enforcement officials and judges, what was missing was the substantive component of the rule of law. The process by which laws were made was not fair…and the laws themselves were not fair.”

As I read this description, I cannot but think of the situation in the United States prior to the passage of civil rights legislation in the 1960s. Based on our own experience and history, we are cognizant that the struggle to ensure a genuine state of rule of law is never ending, and requires constant vigilance. It requires, among other things, an engaged citizenry, strong civil society and free media. That is why the presence here in Warsaw of so many non-governmental organizations is of such importance. For it is often the courageous work of NGOs that makes us aware of the consequences of a failure to uphold any element of rule of law and that helps us guide us toward remedies and progress.

In Russia, the tragic deaths in custody of Sergei Magnitsky and Vera Trifonova are solemn reminders of the human cost of a deficient, poorly functioning and corrupt criminal justice system—a system in which officials have remained above the law, not accountable before it. Ms. Trifonova was arrested and allegedly denied medical attention for diabetes in an attempt to force her to confess to charges of fraud. She subsequently died in prison. Mr. Magnitsky, an attorney arrested on tax evasion charges and who died of medical neglect in pretrial detention, is widely believed to have been imprisoned as retribution for his claim that government officials stole over $200 million in a tax fraud scheme involving the company he represented. The same officials he accused of corruption were responsible for his arrest. Withering publicity and international outrage have only now begun to pierce the atmosphere of impunity that surrounds corrupt officials and stifles the rule of law in this tragic case. The intentional denial of medical care is also a form of intimidation, with the apparent goal of securing coerced confessions.

The second trial, verdict, and sentence against former Yukos executives Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev also evoke serious concerns about the right to a fair trial and the independence of the judiciary in the Russian Federation. We are troubled by the allegations of serious due process violations, and concerned about the rule of law being overshadowed by political considerations.

The United States is very concerned about the poor conduct of trials as well as continuing police abuse in the wake of the June 2010 violence in southern Kyrgyzstan. Trials and arrests in connection with the violence have not been conducted fairly. As many as 91 percent of those prosecuted for crimes related to the June events have been ethnic Uzbeks, despite the fact that ethnic Uzbeks were the overwhelming majority of the victims. Few ethnic Kyrgyz have been investigated or prosecuted. Many prosecutions have been based on confessions allegedly extracted under torture. Defendants’ allegations of torture are rarely investigated or are simply dismissed, and trials have proceeded in spite of these claims. Moreover, defendants and their lawyers have been physically attacked during the trials, often in the courtroom itself and in front of judges and police, with little effort by authorities to intervene. The murder conviction of Azimjon Askarov is the most widely known of these cases, but it is far from isolated. Dozens of cases have been documented in which ethnic Uzbeks convicted of crimes related to the June violence did not receive trials that would be considered fair and impartial by international standards. Askarov’s Supreme Court appeal has been on hold since February 2011 with no explanation or timeframe for resolution by the court.

The August 2011 death of Osmonjon Khalmurzaev following his detention and beating by police in Bazar Korgon near Jalalabad is another disturbing example of these abuses. The police practice of arbitrary arrests and detention for the purpose of extorting bribes has continued since June 2010 and needs to end. Khalmurzaev was arrested at his home on August 7 by police claiming he was connected to the June 2010 violence. No warrant was shown for his arrest. Later that day he called his wife saying he was being severely beaten by three police officers who demanded money for his release. Upon receipt of some money, the police released Khalmurzaev, who fell into a coma the following day. He died on August 9, apparently of internal bleeding; autopsy results are pending. The government has opened an investigation into the death and removed four police officers from their posts. While this case has come to light because of Khalmurzaev’s death, many other cases do not become public as victims are afraid that reporting the abuse could lead to more police outrages. We further call on the government to ensure that all cases and trials are conducted fairly according to international standards, with safety ensured for all participants.

In Kazakhstan, arrests may be used for political purposes, and trials may be unfairly conducted. For example Natalya Sokolova, the lawyer for the striking oil workers, was sentenced in August to six years in jail for “igniting social unrest,” an excessive sentence that would appear to be punishment for her assistance to the labor union. We continue to be concerned that Kazakhstani human rights activist Evgeny Zhovtis remains in prison following flawed investigative and judicial proceedings. For example, defense evidence was not allowed to be presented, and defense witnesses were not allowed to testify.

In Belarus, the government routinely denies citizens due process and the country’s judiciary has no independence from the Lukashenka regime. The convictions of more than 40 presidential candidates, democratic opposition leaders and pro-democracy protestors in connection with the December 19, 2010, presidential elections failed to meet even the most minimal standards required of a fair and independent judiciary. We consider all those convicted and jailed to be political prisoners, and we have and will continue to call for their immediate and unconditional release. We are also concerned about the government’s disbarment of at least six lawyers who represented some of the defendants, including Tamara Sidarenka, who represented two former presidential candidates at their trials earlier this year.

While progress has been made in developing democracy and reform in Ukraine, we are concerned about several recent developments. The misuse of criminal investigations and legal proceedings to put pressure on opposition politicians via targeted prosecutions, including the arrest and arbitrary detention of former Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko, former Interior Minister Yuri Lutsenko and former acting Defense Minister Valeriy Ivashchenko, as well as lesser known civil society activists, has demonstrated the further deterioration of the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law in Ukraine.

In Azerbaijan, we are concerned about the appearance of political motivation in the detentions of 16 opposition leaders and two youth activists. Opposition youth activist Jabbar Savalanli, who was convicted on May 4 and sentenced to two and a half years in prison on alleged drug possession charges, was detained shortly after making online comments calling for pro-democracy protests. Procedural irregularities, combined with the timing and circumstances surrounding Mr. Savalanli’s arrest, raise concerns that Mr. Savalanli was targeted on the basis of his political activities. Bakhtiyar Hajiyev, a youth activist and candidate in the November 2010 parliamentary elections, was sentenced to 2 years in jail on May 18, 2011, allegedly for evading military service. The timing of Mr. Hajiyev’s arrest, which immediately followed his efforts to organize pro-democracy protests earlier this year in Azerbaijan, raises questions about authorities’ use of the judicial system to punish dissent. On August 11, Azerbaijani authorities demolished the building owned by human rights activist Leyla Yunos, which housed the Institute for Peace and Democracy and two other NGOs, as well as Ms. Yunos’ residence. The authorities conducted this demolition despite a court injunction prohibiting such action, thus raising concerns about the government’s respect for rule of law. Such lack of respect for the judiciary, the timing of the demolition—within 48 hours of the publication of an article in the New York Times citing Ms. Yunos on the broad problem of private property demolitions—and subsequent reports of intimidation of some of Ms. Yunos’s colleagues, also raise concerns that this case is politically motivated.

We are concerned that the arrests and trials of individuals charged with belonging to certain groups banned in Uzbekistan are not conducted in accordance with international obligations. In particular, prosecutions are often based merely on printed material. There are frequently reports that the courts allow admissions of guilt allegedly made under duress or as the result of torture, and that defendants do not have access to qualified defense attorneys.

While it is unfortunately denied a seat at this table, the United States holds Kosovo accountable to OSCE norms. Kosovo lacks a fully independent judiciary in practice and the courts do not consistently afford due process at trial. Corruption is pervasive among public officials, negatively impacting legislative transparency. Corruption and outside influence seriously impede judicial independence. Outside influences include political pressures from parties and other branches of the government, family, and friendship ties, as well as outright bribes. Further, the existence of Serbian Government funded-parallel structures in northern Kosovo continue to block the restoration of a fully functioning, multi-ethnic judiciary, resulting in prolonged detentions, indefinitely delayed trials and a lack of due process.

In Albania, political pressure, intimidation, widespread corruption, and limited resources have also sometimes prevented the judiciary from functioning independently and efficiently. The politicization of appointments to the High and Constitutional Courts threaten to undermine the independence and integrity of these courts, and police officers are known to mistreat detainees.

Here, I would like to note that problems in the judicial sector are widespread across the former East Bloc and Soviet Union. It has been a more stubborn challenge than most had imagined to solidify the deep and fundamental changes needed to bring judiciaries in the region fully in line with democratic practices. Polls indicate that in many OSCE countries, including some of those that have navigated democratic transitions most successfully, citizens have lost faith in corrupt, inefficient and unaccountable judiciaries. Corruption and cronyism among judiciaries affect not only the citizenry of a given country, but also the security and prosperity of all who are linked through commerce and shared borders. It is a disincentive to investment and a drain on development. Examples abound of governments, individual judges and NGOs that are working to ensure that the judiciary in their country is both independent and accountable. We should support these efforts, and consider ways in which we can build further on ODIHR’s excellent work in this field, for instance in promoting the consideration by participating States of the “Kyiv Recommendations on Judicial Independence.”

The focus of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on witness protection in the Western Balkans also warrants our attention here. Witness testimony is indispensible everywhere for justice to prevail and, where conflict has divided society, for reconciliation to take place. The PACE report of Mr. Jean-Charles Gardetto notes progress in this area but identifies a continuing need for significant improvement due to threats, intimidation and even murder of witnesses that deter others, without adequate protection, from coming forward. This creates an environment of impunity throughout the Balkans. The United States would like to stress to all parties the importance of witness protection in the EULEX investigation into organized crime and organ trafficking that allegedly took place in Kosovo and Albania in 1999.

 


Statement on Demolition of IPD Offices in Baku and Conviction of Activists

The United States joins the EU in expressing its objection to the August 11 demolition of the offices of the Institute for Peace and Democracy (IPD) in Baku. Of particular concern, the demolition took place despite a May 24, 2011 injunction by a district administrative court forbidding the expropriation or destruction of the property in question. Moreover, the owner of the building was out of the country. Staff present in the office were denied permission to recover private and professional property and records before the demolition of this property, which also contained the owner’s residence.

We urge the authorities in Azerbaijan to investigate this case thoroughly and to open a dialogue with citizens affected by this and other recent demolitions to ensure that property rights are respected. We underscore that full respect for the rule of law–including due process–is a core OSCE commitment and one of the foundations of a free and prosperous society.

Recalling the statements we made following the peaceful demonstrations of April 2, 2011, in which we expressed concern about continuing restrictions on the right of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression in Azerbaijan, we note with concern the August 25 conviction of six activists for their role in the April 2 demonstrations. We join the EU in calling on the Azerbaijani authorities to ensure a fair, transparent, and evidence-based appeal process, and to respect the right of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression for all its citizens, as enshrined in the Azerbaijani Constitution and in Azerbaijan’s OSCE commitments.

The United States will continue to follow developments concerning respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms closely. We reiterate our dedication to assisting Azerbaijan in fulfilling its OSCE commitments.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

 


Hillary Clinton: Egypt’s Renewal of State of Emergency

Today, the Government of Egypt announced that it is extending the State of Emergency for an additional two years. This extension is regrettable given the pledge made by the government to the Egyptian people in 2005. A broad range of Egyptian voices, including Egypt’s National Council on Human Rights, have called for the elimination of the State of Emergency.

Egyptian Government also announced today that it would restrict the use of the Emergency Authority to certain categories of cases, and pledged once again to work to pass counterterrorism legislation and lift the State of Emergency. Any move to significantly narrow the application of the Emergency Law would be a step forward if it means greater protection of civil liberties for Egyptian citizens in practice. We are confident that Egypt can draft and adopt effective counterterrorism legislation that conforms to international standards for civil liberties and due process. And the United States urges Egypt to complete this legislation on an urgent basis and to rescind the State of Emergency within the coming months.

The United States understands the challenges that terrorism poses to free societies and we believe that effective counterterrorism measures can be based on legal principles that protect the rights of all citizens.

 


Verdict in the Khodorkovsky-Lebedev Case

Today’s conviction in the second trial of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev on charges of embezzlement and money laundering raises serious questions about selective prosecution — and about the rule of law being overshadowed by political considerations. This and similar cases have a negative impact on Russia’s reputation for fulfilling its international human rights obligations and improving its investment climate. We welcome President Medvedev’s modernization plans, but their fulfillment requires the development of a climate where due process and judicial independence are respected. We will monitor the appeals process.

 


Statement by the Press Secretary, 12/27/2010

We are deeply concerned that a Russian judge today has indicated that for a second time Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev will be convicted.  We are troubled by the allegations of serious due process violations, and what appears to be an abusive use of the legal system for improper ends.   The apparent selective application of the law to these individuals undermines Russia’s reputation as a country committed to deepening the rule of law.  The Russian government cannot nurture a modern economy without also developing an independent judiciary that serves as an instrument for furthering economic growth, ensuring equal treatment under the law, and advancing justice in a predictable and fair way.
 
The Obama administration stands in solidarity with the many people in the Russian government, in the legal system, and in civil society who are committed to strengthening the rule of law and deepening the commitment to universal values enshrined in the Russian constitution. Russia’s failure to keep this commitment to universal values, including the rule of law, impedes its own modernization and ability to deepen its ties with the United States.
 
President Obama has spoken frequently with President Medvedev about this case and others as part of their ongoing conversation about President Medvedev’s important campaign to strengthen the rule of law and modernize Russia’s political and economic system. We will continue to monitor closely the next stages in this case, including the fairness of the sentences and the review by higher courts during the appeals process.

 


UN General Assembly Resolution on Iran’s Human Rights Violations

The United States welcomes the UN General Assembly resolution calling on the Government of Iran to fully respect its human rights obligations. This resolution also reiterates the need for Iran to permit credible and independent investigations of all allegations of human rights violations.

The international community is deeply concerned about ongoing human rights abuses in Iran and the plight of Iranian citizens facing persecution at the hands of their government. Yesterday’s UN resolution recognizes the severity of this troubling situation, particularly the continued harassment, persecution, and violent repression of political opponents, human rights defenders, and a wide variety of civil society representatives. It reflects our concern that an increasing number of Iranian political prisoners have had to undertake life-threatening hunger strikes in order to invoke their minimal due process protections. These rights are enumerated in Iran’s own constitution and called for under Iran’s international treaty obligations.

To all those Iranians struggling to lift your voices and speak up for fundamental freedoms and human rights, you are not alone. The United States and the international community stand with you.

 
 

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