UN special rapporteur Alena Douhan speaks during a press conference in Caracas, Venezuela on February 12, 2021


UN special rapporteur Alena Douhan speaks during a press conference in Caracas, Venezuela on February 12, 2021 – Copyright AFP DIPTENDU DUTTA

Human rights groups on Friday warned Tehran will try to use an upcoming visit to Iran by a UN expert in order to avoid accountability.

Alena Douhan, the special rapporteur focused on the impact of unilateral sanctions, is due to begin a visit to Iran from Saturday, the United Nations has said.

The mission from May 7 to 18 will be the first to the Islamic republic by a special rapporteur since 2005.

In a statement Thursday, Douhan said she hoped to “gather first-hand information on the impact of unilateral coercive measures on the full realisation of all human rights” in Iran.

“My visit will aim at covering all walks of life and sectors affected by such measures,” said Douhan, whose official title is “special rapporteur on the negative impact of the unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights.”

Her mission comes during a stalemate in talks between Iran and world powers to revive a 2015 agreement which gave Iran sanctions relief in return for curbs on its nuclear programme. In 2018 then-US president Donald Trump withdrew from the deal and imposed crippling sanctions on Iran, which then began rolling back its own commitments.

Douhan works under a mandate from the United Nations Human Rights Council.

But a group of 11 human rights groups warned in a statement Friday that Iran’s government will try to “instrumentalise” the visit “in a cynical attempt to deflect attention from its well-documented record of human rights violations”.

The visit “comes after 17 years of denial of access to any of the 14 UN human rights monitors that have requested to visit the country,” said the statement.

“By inviting the only expert whose mandate is to look at external actors’ liability for rights violations in the country, Iranian authorities exploit this visit in an inconspicuous attempt to blunt scrutiny of its record of non-cooperation with the UN human rights system,” said the statement signed by groups including United for Iran, Article 19 and Iran Human Rights Documentation Centre.

Douhan said she will “pay particular attention to the adverse effects on the most vulnerable segments of society, including in the current context of the Covid-19 pandemic”.

The rights groups say Iran has a history of blatant rights violations, and “legitimate concern over the impact of sanctions cannot and must not overshadow the Iranian authorities’ responsibility for failing to ensure — and sometimes actively restricting — access to health, work, education, internet and adequate living standards for all in Iran.”

They added: “The international community must not be fooled, and Iran should not be rewarded for its attempt to avoid accountability.” 

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