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European Law Monitor NewsHuman rights: Iran, Pakistan, Sudan

In three human rights resolutions adopted at the end of October 2007 plenary session, Parliament voiced concern at the worsening situation in Iran, called for democracy to be restored in Pakistan and condemned the killing of 10 African Union peacekeepers in Sudan.

Executions and other abuses in Iran

Iran is the focus of the first resolution adopted. Here the EP expresses deep concern at "the deterioration of the human rights situation", notably the "dramatic increase in the repression of civil-society movements in Iran over the past year". It urges the authorities "to honour their obligations in accordance with international human rights standards and instruments ratified by Iran".

Sharp increase in executions

Among other things, MEPs are "appalled at the spiralling numbers of executions recorded, many of those executed facing unfair trials".   The number of executions in Iran, including those of minors and homosexuals, often public by hanging or stoning, has dramatically increased, bringing the number recorded since the start of 2007 to at least 244.   The EP "calls on the Iranian authorities to implement their declared moratorium on stoning" and "demands that the Islamic Penal Code of Iran be reformed in order to abolish stoning".
Iran is also urged "to fully respect its Code of Criminal Procedure and to grant the right to a fair trial to all individuals", including access to a lawyer from the start of the judicial process.     The EP calls for "legislation outlawing the execution of juvenile offenders and the application of the death penalty for homosexual acts or adultery". Lastly, the authorities are asked to release all prisoners of conscience unconditionally, notably several journalists named in the resolution.

International bodies urged to keep up the pressure

Pressure should be kept up on Iran from outside the country, MEPs believe. They urge the UN General Assembly, for example, "to vote on a resolution explicitly and decisively condemning the violation of fundamental human rights in Iran and to adopt urgent measures to halt the recent wave of executions in Iran".
As to the European Union, the resolution calls on the Council and Commission "to closely monitor developments in Iran and also to raise concrete cases of human rights abuses".   It also suggests "restarting the EU-Iran Human Rights Dialogue, which has been interrupted since June 2004, and which could possibly be accompanied by a joint initiative of the Majlis [the Iranian Parliament] and the European Parliament".
In conclusion, the resolution calls on the Commission to support civil society in Iran, notably through the new Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights, and on the EU Member States to refrain from expulsions of Iranian asylum-seekers.

Attack on Bhutto prompts call for restoration of democracy in Pakistan

In a resolution on Pakistan adopted in the wake of the suicide bombing attack against Benazir Bhutto, Parliament voices concern at the unstable political situation in the country and calls on the authorities to restore democratic standards ahead of the parliamentary elections.
MEPs condemn the attack against Benazir Bhutto and call on the Pakistan government to conduct a "thorough and independent investigation". Parliament extends its deepest sympathy, especially to the families of those killed and injured, and reaffirms its solidarity with the people of Pakistan who want "democratic governance and transparent, accountable rule and who act with courage and determination in the face of terrorist and criminal violence".

Military dictatorship must be replaced through free and fair elections

The EP urges Pakistan to uphold all the principles enshrined in the Cooperation Agreement with the EU, in particular the democracy and human rights clause and, alluding to the forced departure of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to Saudi Arabia, asks the government "to allow the return of all political leaders to counter the extremist forces in the country and contribute to establishing a legitimate government through free and fair elections, replacing the current military dictatorship".    
The lack of independence or neutrality of Pakistan's institutions and judiciary is a major worry: the caretaker government is chosen by President Musharraf, the government interferes with the courts and the president failed to relinquish his post of army chief before being elected president.   Against this background, the resolution calls for "immediate action to restrict the influence of the military in society as a whole". It also "urges that Pakistan returns to democratic government by holding free, fair and transparent elections in January 2008", warns against "the imposition of emergency rule" and urges the government "to provide all parties with equal access to the media".
The fact that EU will monitor the parliamentary elections and the European Parliament will participate in the observer mission is welcomed.

Religious issues, women's rights

MEPs note the reports of "ongoing oppression of religious minorities such as Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs and Ahmadis" and call for "immediate action to cease such religious-based repression".     They also stress the importance of "effective monitoring of the madrassas to prevent control by extremists".
Parliament urges the repeal of the Hudood Ordinances, which have led to the imprisonment of hundreds of women, as well as the removal of a restriction on women's participation in the parliamentary elections (an academic qualification is currently required as a condition for standing for election, thus excluding 70% of women).    
Lastly, EU Member States are urged "fully to respect the EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports".

Killing of AU peacekeepers in Darfur

On the day the EP's Sakharov Prize was awarded to the Sudanese human rights lawyer Salih Mahmoud Osman for his work in Darfur, MEPs also adopted a resolution (by 65 votes to 0, with 0 abstentions) condemning the killing of 10 African Union peacekeepers in that region and calling on the Sudanese government to shoulder responsibility for the country's internal security, notably by allowing the UNAMID peacekeeping force to be deployed.
On 30 September 2007 unidentified forces attacked an African Union base in Haskanita, South Darfur, killing 10 AU peacekeepers and civilian police, at least eight other personnel from the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) were seriously injured and approximately 40 remain went missing.   Attacks on AMIS personnel have increased lately and, since the force was deployed in 2004, more than 25 soldiers and staff have been killed.
The resolution strongly condemns the killing of the 10 AU peacekeepers and considers it "a war crime to be promptly investigated by the African Union and the United Nations".   It stresses that "customary laws of war prohibit directing attacks against personnel and objects involved in international peacekeeping missions".
MEPs demand an immediate cessation of hostilities and attacks not only on AMIS but also on civilians and humanitarian agencies, their staff and assets and relief convoys. They call on "the Sudanese Government and the rebel groups to cooperate fully with an independent investigation into the dreadful attack in Haskanita and to bring all those responsible to justice". They add that the fate of those peacekeepers still missing must be established.

Sudanese Government urged to allow deployment of UNAMID force

The AMIS force in Darfur comprises approximately 7000 troops and civilian police at the present moment, and is virtually the only force on the ground in Darfur providing civilian protection.   A 26,000 member AU-UN hybrid operation, UNAMID, was authorised by the UN Security Council in July 2007 but has yet to be deployed, owing to unwillingness by the Sudanese Government.
The resolution points out that "the Sudanese Government has made previous unfulfilled commitments to allow the hybrid force into Sudan". It calls for "rapid deployment of the UNAMID force with a mandate which enables it to efficiently protect civilians" and calls on the UN "to fulfil its commitment and provide the troops that have been promised".
In addition, the resolution "reminds the Sudanese Government that it bears the prime responsibility for internal security and that it should not abdicate this responsibility in favour of the international community".
Lastly, the EU, the UN and the African Union are called upon to show a united front in efforts to resolve the conflict in Darfur and "to prioritise a comprehensive peace process through a political dialogue with all parties concerned".