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By Safa Haeri at the UN HQ in Geneva

In a surprising shift of policy that surprised everyone here, the Islamic Republic of Iran abstained for the first time to challenge the report of the United Nations Special Representative on the question of human rights in Iran.

Seasoned analysts and diplomats at the UN suggested that by adopting a conciliatory attitude, the Islamic Republic might be out to ask the United Nations to end the mandate of its special Representative, the Canadian diplomat Maurice Copithorne.

Asked about this likelihood, Mr. Capithorne said despite the fact that he finds progresses had been made concerning the situation of human rights in Iran, but taking into account that the way to reasonable situation is still very long, he therefore think that the Islamic Iran should remain under scrutiny.

At the past sessions, representatives from the Islamic Republic would vehemently reject the report from the special Representative, accusing him to compile his report on biased information obtained from opposition sources, oblivion of the fact they have never allowed him in Iran but once.

Observers described Mr. Capithorne's report as "lenient", noting that he favours keeping doors of dialogue open with the Iranian.

"Capithorne may be attempting to support Khatami, to the point that he sometimes downplays human rights issues and aspects that are, or could be very serious. That's way he says things without naming them while trying to please the authorities", commented a UN expert.

Presented to the 55th session of the UN's Commission on Human Rights started in Geneva on 31st of May, the UN's Special representative for human rights conditions in the Islamic Republic noted that "so far" the names of those accused of have killed Iranian politicians and intellectuals have not been released, nor have any plans been announced for the trials of those concerned.

"In short", Mr. Capithorne observed during his brief statement, the violence appears to have been attributed to the work of a few rogue or extremist elements including certain persons within the ranks of the Ministry of Information".

On the subject of freedom of expression, Mr. Capithorne noted in his statement that "the struggle for the full enjoyment of human rights is being more or less continuously joined. In the last three months, there have been more cases of journals being suspended and fines imposed, and in some cases for declared reasons that seems doubtful at best".

"In the most publicised incident, a university lecturer and seminary teacher was arrested by the clerics court and according to press reports, charged with among other things confusing public opinion", the special Representative observed in reference to hojatoleslam Mohsen Kkadivar, an adviser to the President whom he did not named.

Earlier yesterday, the Special Representative had met extensively Ms. Parastou Foruhar, the daughter of the late Dariush and Parvaneh Foruhar, the leaders of the secularist Iranian people's Party who where murdered last November in Tehran by official agents of the regime.

Flanked by Dr Karim Lahiji, the president of the Paris-based Iranian League of Human Rights (in exile), Ms. Parastou explained to Mr. Capithorne that since the acknowledgement by the Islamic authorities of Iran that their own agents have assassinated her parents, as well as at least 2 other intellectual dissidents, yet nothing has emerged as who ordered the assassinations, who are the killers and who co-ordinated the murders.

That's why, Ms. Foruhar and Mr. Lahiji insisted on the necessity of an international commission made of independent lawyers and experts going to Iran to investigate the killings.

However, at press conference and meeting with representatives of Non Government Organisations, Mr. Capithorne admitted that he would "highly doubt" that the Islamic authorities would ever accept such a delegation, observing that all past demands by international jurist to go to defend the case of Mr. Abbas Amir Entezam, Iran's and probably one of the world's longest political prisoner had been flatly rejected by the Iranian authorities.

Asked if he has any information about how the Iranian government is conducting the investigations on the recent killings, Mr. Capithorne admitted that he has no more information than does the family of the victims.

Asked if in his view the West should support Khatami, Mr. Copithorne suggested a very cautious attitude by foreigners, for, he explained, a clear backing given to the President can be interpreted by the conservatives who opposes him as an outright interference in the interior affairs of Iran.

In his statement, Mr. Capithorne described as "important development" the Councils elections that took place a month ago. "The Councils have been convened for April 29 and, while it remains to be seen how much power they will be able to exercise, there is a broad expectation that this grass root process is a major step forward in the development of democratic institutions in Iran", he told the 53 nations Human Rights Commission.

However, on the subject of minorities and women, Mr. Capithorne noted that "in the matter regarding the Baha'is in particular, while there have been some interesting developments which may indicate that improvement could follow, no evidence has come to my attention that the pressure under which the Baha'i community in Iran lives is lessening at this point in time".

©Copyright 1999, Iran Press

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