Iran’s human rights record is under the microscope once again.
A recent UN report strongly condemned the lack of civil liberties in the country.
In an interview in Geneva, euronews’ Brussels correspondent James Franey spoke to Mohammad Javad Larijani, the head of Iran’s human rights council, about this and other key issues of the country’s domestic and international affairs.
euronews: “Mohammad Javad Larijani, thank you very much for being here on euronews. There’s been a lot of talk about Iran’s human rights situation. There have been allegations of torture, of repression of political opponents, lots of serious allegations, not only from the United Nations, but also human rights organisations such as Amnesty and Human Rights Watch. What’s your reaction to that?”
Mohammad Javad Larijani: “I think that Iran right now is targeted, is falling victim of a new kind of terrorism. I call it media and political terrorism. In the [UN Human Rights] Council, if you look at the number of people who talked about Iran, more than 100 states expressed their views about Iran. Something like 50 states, which are the United States and Europeans mostly, they criticised Iran. The rest, which are over 70, they were very sympathetic to Iran.
“For us, the world is not the United States, Britain and France. We consider it globally. Yes, these people make a lot of fuss and they are the flag leaders of human rights. But the record of the United States is very dismal.”
euronews: “This idea that there is a bias against Iran doesn’t seem to be correct. Because these same organisations for example, I mentioned: Amnesty, Human Rights Watch, they’ve been very critical of the United States and their response to human rights, especially with the issue of Guantanamo Bay. There’s not really a bias against Iran, is there?”
Mohammad Javad Larijani: “The governments who are criticising us, it is quite apparent that there is a quite politically structured criticism here; politically manipulated. The second point comes to what is called NGOs.
“There is the second point in the criticism against us. And this is overlooking differences. Our experience in the last 35 years is to create a political and civil structure, a polity as you call it in English, based on Islamic rationality, which is democratic, but it is not liberal, it is not secular.”
euronews: “You have the highest rate of executions per capita (globally). As the head of the human rights council in Iran, are you proud of that?
Mohammad Javad Larijani: “Not at all. We are very much unhappy and uneasy about that. And we are trying hard to change the laws, which are bringing that situation about. As you know – and it’s been said several times – that more than 80 percent of these executions are stemming from narcotics drug-related crimes. I think if we change the law on narcotics, 80 percent of our executions will be dropped. This is a first, pragmatic stage for bringing down the executions.”
euronews: “I’d just like to move on to talk about some specific cases. There’s a Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, who has been detained for more than 100 days. What has he done wrong?”
Mohammad Javad Larijani: “Well, I am not in a position to judge, I am just reporting that the security officials filed against him charges that he was involved in activities beyond journalism.”
euronews: “What does that mean?”
Mohammad Javad Larijani: “Well, involving activities which breach the security of the state.”
euronews: “The last article he wrote before being detained was about how Iranians love baseball. How does that threaten national security?”
Mohammad Javad Larijani: “No, this definitely does not bring any charge against him.
euronews: “Your brother is the head of judiciary. He has the power to recommend that someone be pardoned to the Supreme Leader. How likely is it will do you think that he will be released in the coming days?”
Mohammad Javad Larijani: “First, there should the court proceedings. Maybe the court will pardon him itself and totally drop all the charges, then everything is finished. If not, he has been indicted, then the second line, the pardon line will start. So we should go through this mechanism. It doesn’t go straightforward.”
euronews:: “So we think that within a week or two….”
Mohammad Javad Larijani: “Well, I anticipate in less than a month.”
euronews: “I just also want to move onto the case of Ghoncheh Ghavami, the British-Iranian lady who was protesting the right to watch a volleyball match. She’s now been detained for more than 125 days. She didn’t meet her lawyer until the lawyer came into court. What happened?”
Mohammad Javad Larijani: “The idea is not about participating in going to watch the match. The idea is that she broke the relation in creating violence and creating a lot of fusses (sic – fuss) around….you know, the places around where the matches are holding (sic – are held) are very volatile areas. You have it in the western countries, a small act and huge violence will start over there.”
euronews: “But isn’t it a show of weakness that the Islamic Republic of Iran is so scared of a 25-year-old law graduate?”
Mohammad Javad Larijani: “Not at all. Why weakness? We are very strong in pursuing our way of life and our regulations. Suppose a person in the metro of London does something wrong, then the police will detain him. This is not a weakness because we say the UK government is afraid; this is the way of law enforcement anywhere.”
euronews: “There are a lot of irregularities surrounding her case. Her family say that it is tearing them apart. Would you agree to meet with the family?”
Mohammad Javad Larijani: “The door of my office is always open to meet the family of the accused, the family of the victim. So definitely my office is open. I think there is no irregularity in this case. They can come and we will explain to them with expertise. Their lawyers, also they come to our offices; we’ll explain it to them. If we discover that there is irregularity, we are immediately going into that case, following that up and clearing that up.”
euronews: “So you are going to investigate this case?”
Mohammad Javad Larijani: “If we discover that there is irregularity, definitely we do that.”
euronews: “It would be unfitting if I was not to ask you about the nuclear negotiations which are ongoing with the P5+1. Obviously it depends on the good faith of all sides, whether a deal is reached or not this month. How likely is it do you think that a deal will be struck?”
Mohammad Javad Larijani: “I am optimistic because I am aware that the Western community is coming to the conclusion that Iran should be considered one of the most capable countries in nuclear technology. And Iran is delivering its obligations. If these two are acknowledged up to any degree, I think we will reach some agreement… but proportional to that degree.”
euronews: “Politicians in the US and Israel, some certainly on the right, think that you want to build a bomb.”
Mohammad Javad Larijani: “I think that the right politicians, the right-wing politicians, should go and see a psychiatrist. I mean something is wrong with [their] mental status. The world is not moving in the direction that they would like. We are very much a strong country in the world and they cannot change it in the way they like.
“It is the right time for those countries who claim to lead the world to equip themselves with ideas which are capable of leading the world. This kind of suspicion and prejudice at the extreme are not capable of leading the world.”