Iran: Demonstrations; New Human Rights Watch Report; Progress at the Security Council?

Major demonstrations are underway in Tehran today, the 31st anniversary of the Islamic revolution. The Guardian is providing the full Nico Pitney treatment, and continuously collecting first hand accounts and videos from the day’s events.  So far, it looks like the government is firmly in control of the situation and has been able to keep the crowds dispersed.  To that end, these tactics seem to help.     

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch released a new report on the human rights abuses that occured during the government’s crackdown against its political opposition, following Iran’s disputed presidential election. The report provides a number of first person accounts from witnesses and victims of the Iranian government’s post-election crackdown, including this story from a former detainee.  

On June 26, prison guards one more time set up fake executions, cursing and randomly beating people who asked for water or to use the toilet. I said, “Execute me if you want and get it over with.” I received a kick to my stomach and when I fell to the ground more kicks in the stomach, until I started throwing up blood. Another man said, “Take this faggot and make him pregnant, so he won’t be a smartass again.” That man grabbed me violently and pulled me to another location. He tied my hands and feet and pulled down my underwear and […] while he was raping me he said, “…. You can’t even defend your own ass, how do you want to start a velvet revolution?” I threw up blood and passed out.

Finally, there is some movement at the Security Council on a potential next round of Iran sanctions.  At a meeting in Brussels, Gordon Brown re-iterated the UK government’s position on Iran:

“I think the choices could not be clearer. Iran can either pursue a civilian nuclear programme, respect human rights and earn the trust and respect of the international community, or it can move ahead with its nuclear weapons programme, trample on human rights and be isolated and ostracized on the wrong side of history, outside the international community.”

 So what are the next steps?  The ever valuable Security Council report summarizes the current council dynamics on Iran:

Within the P5, divisions remain on the best approach on Iran. France, the UK and the US now support prompt action on further sanctions.

China seems to maintain that further dialogue might be productive and that there is still space for further negotiations with Iran. It is therefore not the right moment for sanctions. However, China agreed to the joint statement from the January meeting which began a process to discuss additional measures.

Russia does not seem to rule out additional sanctions. It seems to have been particularly concerned at the revelation of the Qom enrichment facility, as well as Iran’s rejection of the IAEA October 2009 proposal which it saw as a fair compromise. In a statement on 22 January, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia wanted to see “constructive actions” from Iran.

Some elected Council members seem sceptical about the utility of further sanctions at this stage. There are also concerns about the impact of increased international pressure on the fragile internal situation in Iran.

Brazil and Turkey both abstained when the 27 November 2009 resolution on Iran was adopted in the IAEA and believe there is still room for further negotiations on the basis of the October offer. They have both engaged bilaterally with Iran. Lebanon is also concerned about premature Council action.

Many elected members also seem concerned about the failure of the P5 to consult with them collectively as Council members in the process.

Stay tuned.