Iran's human rights in the spotlight

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Pretoria - Human rights in Iran, which have taken a sharp turn for the worse recently, were in the spotlight on Thursday when International Relations Deputy Minister Ebrahim Ebrahim met with a representative from that country.

Ebrahim used his meeting with, Mohammad Larijani, Head of the Supreme Council for Human Rights, to discuss the "unsettleling" issues of human rights in that country.

Among those was the use of death penalty which SA believes it's excessive in its application, the position of religious minorities, in particular the Bahi'i and the sentencing to death by stoning of Sakineh Ashtiani, among others.

South Africa has been tipped by observers as well placed to encourage Iran to reform repressive laws that it uses to quash free speech and discriminate against women.

Briefing the media after the meeting, Ebrahim said he was pleased by the response he got from Larijani and his delegation.

"We are grateful of the information we received ...and we had agreed to have annual consultations between the two countries on human rights issues. We will endeavour to schedule these interactions to coincide with the meetings of joint commission," Ebrahim said.

Larijani explained that a number of the death penalties cases are for illegal drug traffickers, and more then 50 percent of the death penalties are for retribution.

He said the use of torture was against Iran's policy. Larijani furthermore explained that The Law of Retribution is the right of the individual and it has nothing to do with the judiciary system.

Asked if SA will stand with other BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries on the Iran nuclear issue, Ebrahim didn't go into detail but he did indicate that South Africa and Iran maintain a good relationship and would raise any issues they might have with them.

He said while SA maybe part of Brics - which is a great advantage for the country and Africa - they will not always agree on certain issues.

SA has in the pass called on Iran to adhere to its international commitments and address fears of the international community over its nuclear programme and underlined that the country should cooperate with IAEA and UN Security Council.

Larijani and his delegation will also meet with Minister for Women, Children and People with Disabilities Lulu Xingwana, Deputy Minister for Justice, Andre Nel and Speaker for the national Assembly Max Sisulu, before giving a lecture at the University of Pretoria.

South Africa's relations extend into many fields and Iran is still South Africa's major supplier of crude oil.

Meanwhile, Ebrahim said Minster Maite Nkoana-Mashabane will brief the media next week about missing journalist Anton Hammerl, who is believed to be held by pro-Muammar Gaddafi forces in Libya.

President Jacob Zuma had instructed International Relations to exhaust all diplomatic channels to trace Hammerl.

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