U. S. ranks Iran among worst for rights abuses

Los Angeles Times - - THE WORLD - By Paul Richter paul. richter@ latimes. com Twit­ter: @ richt­pau

VI­ENNA — On the eve of talks to con­clude a land­mark nu­clear deal with Iran, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion Thurs­day iden­ti­fied the Tehran gov­ern­ment as one of the world’s worst abusers of hu­man rights.

In its an­nual re­port on hu­man rights around the world, the State Depart­ment cited the theo­cratic gov­ern­ment for de­priv­ing its cit­i­zens of var­i­ous free­doms, in­clud­ing the right to choose their lead­ers through free elec­tions.

The re­port por­trays the Ira­nian jus­tice sys­tem as harsh and ar­bi­trary, par­tic­u­larly in cases in­volv­ing the gov­ern­ment’s po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents, and says se­nior of­fi­cials do not pun­ish of­fi­cials who com­mit abuses.

Some of the most se­ri­ous abuses in the last year grew from the gov­ern­ment’s dis­re­gard for the phys­i­cal safety of cit­i­zens, “whom author­i­ties ar­bi­trar­ily and un­law­fully de­tained, tor­tured or killed,” the re­port says.

Iran is among a hand­ful of coun­tries named by Sec­re­tary of State John F. Kerry in an in­tro­duc­tion to the re­port.

The depart­ment also crit­i­cized the rights records of Cuba, Myan­mar and Viet­nam, coun­tries with which the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion is try­ing to im­prove re­la­tions.

Cuba’s gov­ern­ment was cited for ha­rass­ment of po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents, a lack of free speech, in­tim­i­da­tion and abu­sive de­ten­tions.

The re­port also says that Rus­sia has be­come in­creas­ingly au­thor­i­tar­ian and has moved to deny free speech.

Many of the abuses al­leged in the re­port had been cat­a­loged by the State Depart­ment in pre­vi­ous re­ports. But this year’s vol­ume has had more vis­i­bil­ity than nor­mal be­cause of the nu­clear ne­go­ti­a­tions with Iran.

The re­port was sup­posed to have been re­leased on Feb. 25. The ad­min­is­tra­tion’s crit­ics had ac­cused the State Depart­ment of de­lay­ing its re­lease to avoid pro­vok­ing Iran and pos­si­bly hurt­ing prospects for a nu­clear deal.

State Depart­ment of­fi­cials have said the re­lease was de­layed be­cause of the hec­tic travel sched­ule of the sec­re­tary, who cus­tom­ar­ily is present at the re­port’s re­lease to give it vis­i­bil­ity.

Sen. Ted Cruz ( R- Texas), a pres­i­den­tial hope­ful, had pro­posed f in­ing the State Depart­ment for fur­ther de­lays.

With­out iden­ti­fy­ing him by name, the re­port cites the case of Washington Post re­porter Jason Reza­ian, a dual U. S.- Ira­nian citizen, who was im­pris­oned in July in Iran and is now on trial on un­spec­i­fied charges. Reza­ian has been de­nied le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tion and U. S. con­sular help and is at risk be­cause of health prob­lems and psy­cho­log­i­cal stress, the re­port says.

The re­port says the Ira­nian gov­ern­ment has se­verely re­stricted free­doms of assem­bly, speech, re­li­gion and the press.

It de­tails a va­ri­ety of abuses in the ju­di­cial sys­tem, in­clud­ing dis­ap­pear­ances, court- sanc­tioned am­pu­ta­tions, and vi­o­lence against po­lit­i­cal ad­ver­saries. Iran has the sec­ond­high­est rate of ex­e­cu­tions in the world and of­ten ig­nores guar­an­tees of due process made in its con­sti­tu­tion, the re­port says.

The re­port also ques- tions the po­lit­i­cal le­git­i­macy of Ira­nian supreme leader Ay­a­tol­lah Ali Khamenei, who will make the ul­ti­mate de­ci­sion on whether his coun­try ac­cepts a nu­clear deal.

Khamenei dom­i­nates “key power struc­tures,” the re­port says, not­ing that although many Ira­ni­ans take part in elec­tions, an un­elected body screens out can­di­dates deemed un­ac­cept­able.

The re­port ac­knowl­edges that much of its in­for­ma­tion came sec­ond­hand, through pri­vate hu­man rights ad­vo­cacy groups, be­cause the United States doesn’t have diplo­matic re­la­tions with Iran.

Cliff Owen As­so­ci­ated Press

SEC­RE­TARY John F. Kerry’s hec­tic travel sched­ule con­trib­uted to the de­lay in the re­lease of the an­nual re­port on hu­man rights, the State Depart­ment said.

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