Iran: Fair Vote Impossible

NewYork) – Iran’s parliamentary elections scheduled for March 2, 2012, will be grossly unfair because of arbitrary disqualifications and other restrictions,Human Rights Watch said today. The voting for 290 parliamentary seats follows the disqualification of hundreds of candidates based on vague and ill-defined criteria, and opposition leaders are either barred from participating, serving unjust prison sentences, or refusing to participate in what they consider sham elections.

On February 21, the Guardian Council, an unelected body of 12 religious jurists, announced that fewer than 3,500 of the approximately 5,400 candidates running for seats in the majlis, Iran’s parliament, had been approved to run. The Interior Ministry had earlier disqualified about 750 candidates. At least 35 of those disqualified by the Guardian Council are current members of parliament. In response to these and other state actions, Iran’s opposition and reformist movement have called for an election boycott.

“Iranian authorities have stacked the deck by disqualifying candidates and arbitrarily jailing key members of the reform movement,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.“There is no transparency surrounding the vetting and selection of candidates.”

Iran’s vetting process for both parliamentary and presidential candidates involves several stages. The Interior Ministry conducts a first cut of applicants based on criteria set by the election laws. While some of these criteria are concrete, such as age limits and educational requirements, most are extremely vague, enabling authorities to make sweeping and arbitrary decisions. Candidates have four days to appeal the Interior Ministry’s initial decision. Once the ministry compiles its list of “qualified” candidates, the Guardian Council makes the final decision on who may run for election.

On January 10, the Interior Ministry’s election commission disqualified several dozen candidates because of their “lack of adherence to Islam and the Constitution.” The disqualified candidates include several incumbents who were critical of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government. One of the disqualified candidates told Human Rights Watch that he received a note from local government authorities on January 10, informing him that he had been disqualified because he was allegedly affiliated with or supportive of “illegal” parties, organizations, or groups. He said the authorities gave him no additional information regarding the reasons for his disqualification, and he decided not to appeal the decision.

Human Rights Watch has learned that the latest list of candidates disqualified by the Guardian Council includes several members of the 15 members of the Sunni bloc in parliament. Among those who will no longer be members of parliament are Jalal Mahmoudzadeh and Eqbal Mohammadi, the former and current leaders of the bloc. On December 19, 2011, the faction had sent a letter to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, asking him to protect the political and social rights of Iran’s Sunni minority.

Over the past few years, authorities have banned some reformist parties and severely restricted the activities of others. On September 27, 2010, the general prosecutor and judiciary spokesman announced a court order dissolving two reformist political parties, the Islamic Iran Participation Front and the Mojahedin of the Islamic Revolution. Authorities prevent members of other pro-reform groups, like the Freedom Movement party, from holding gatherings.

The Guardian Council disqualifications came after reformist and opposition activists, some of whom are currently serving prison terms, denounced the upcoming elections and concluded that there was no reason to field candidates. On December 26, Fatemeh Karroubi relayed a message from her husband, Mehdi Karroubi, a former presidential candidate who has been under house arrest, calling the elections “a sham.” Several days later, the Iranian judiciary announced that calls for a boycott of the elections constituted “a crime.” On January 17, Saham News, a website affiliated with Karroubi’s Etemad-e Melli party, said that authorities were holding Karroubi incommunicadoand preventing him from seeing his family in retaliation for his criticisms of the upcoming elections.

Authorities continue to hold the opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Zahra Rahnavard, as well as Karroubi, under house arrest more than a year after they called for demonstrations in support of wide-scale protests following the disputed June 2009 presidential election. Dozens of other opposition figures are in prison after being unfairly tried for such offenses as “acting against the national security” and “propaganda against the regime.”

“Almost three years ago, following contested presidential elections, millions of Iranians marched through the streets chanting ‘Where’s my vote?’” Stork said. “Today those words still reverberate, reminding us of the government’s determination to deny its people the right to decide their own future.”

Human Rights Watch

Updated Iran resolution on Obama’s plate

Whereas since at least the late 1980s, the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has engaged in a sustained and well-documented pattern of illicit and deceptive activities to acquire a nuclear capability;
Whereas the United Nations Security Council has adopted multiple resolutions since 2006 demanding the full and sustained suspension of all uranium enrichment-related and reprocessing activities by the Iranian government and its full cooperation with the IAEA on all outstanding issues related to its nuclear activities, particularly those concerning the possible military dimensions of its nuclear program;
Whereas on November 8, 2011, the IAEA issued an extensive report documenting “serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme” and stating that”Iran has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear device” and that these efforts may be ongoing;
Whereas as of November 2008, Iran had produced approximately 630 kilograms of uranium-235enriched to 3.5 percent and no uranium-235 enriched to 20 percent, according to the IAEA;
Whereas as of November 2011, Iran had produced nearly 5,000 kilograms of uranium-235enriched to 3.5 percent and 79.7 kilograms of uranium-235 enriched to 20 percent, according to the IAEA;
Whereas on January 9, 2011, IAEA inspectors confirmed that the Iranian government had begun enrichment activities at the Fordow site, including possibly enrichment of uranium-235 to 20percent;
Whereas if Iran were successful in acquiring a nuclear weapon capability, it would likely spur other countries in the region to consider developing their own nuclear weapons capabilities;
Whereas on December 6, 2011, Prince Turki al-Faisal of Saudi Arabia stated that if international efforts to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons fail, “we must, as a duty to our country and people, look into all options we are given, including obtaining these weapons ourselves”;
 Whereas top Iranian leaders have repeatedly threatened the existence of the State of Israel,pledging to “wipe Israel off the map”;
Whereas the U.S. Department of State since 1984 has designated Iran as a “State Sponsor of Terrorism” and has characterized Iran as “the most active state sponsor of terrorism”;
Whereas Iran has provided weapons, training, funding, and direction to terrorist groups including Hamas, Hezbollah, and Shiite militias in Iraq that are responsible for the murders of hundreds of American forces and innocent civilians;
Whereas on July 28, 2011, the U.S. Department of the Treasury charged that the Government of Iran had forged a “secret deal” with Al Qaeda to facilitate the movement of al Qaeda fighters and funding through Iranian territory;
Whereas in October 2011, senior leaders of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)Quds Force were implicated in a terrorist plot to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to the United States on U.S. soil;
Whereas on December 26, 2011, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution denouncing the serious human rights abuses occurring in the Islamic Republic of Iran, including torture, cruel and degrading treatment in detention, the targeting of human rights defenders, violence against women, and “the systematic and serious restrictions on freedom of peaceful assembly” as well as severe restrictions on the rights “to freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief”;
Whereas President Obama, through the P5+1 process, has made repeated efforts to engage the Iranian government in dialogue about Iran’s nuclear program and its international commitments under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
Whereas on March 31, 2010, President Obama stated that the “consequences of a nuclear -armed Iran are unacceptable”;
Whereas in his State of the Union Address on January 24, 2012, President Obama stated: “Letthere be no doubt: America is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and Iwill take no options off the table to achieve that goal”;
 Whereas Secretary of Defense Panetta in December 2011 stated that it was unacceptable for Iran to acquire nuclear weapons, reaffirmed that all options were on the table to thwart Iran’s nuclear weapons efforts, and vowed that if the U.S. gets “intelligence that they are proceeding with
developing a nuclear weapon then we will take whatever steps necessary to stop it”;
Whereas the Defense Department’s January 2012 Strategic Guidance stated that U.S. defense efforts in the Middle East would be aimed “to prevent Iran’s development of a nuclear weapons capability and counter its destabilizing policies”;
 Resolved that the United States Senate —
(1) Affirms that it is a vital national interest of the United States to prevent the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability;
(2) Warns that time is limited to prevent the Iranian government from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability;
(3) Urges continued and increasing economic and diplomatic pressure on the Islamic Republic of Iran for the purposes of achieving an agreement from the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran that includes the full and sustained suspension of all uranium enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, complete cooperation with the IAEA on all outstanding questions related to Iran’s nuclear activities, including implementation of the NPT Additional Protocol, and theverified end of Iran’s ballistic missile programs, leading ultimately to a permanent agreement verifiably assuring that Iran’s nuclear program is entirely peaceful”;
(4) Expresses support for the universal rights and democratic aspirations of the Iranian people;
(5) Strongly supports U.S. policy to prevent the Iranian government from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability and rejects any policy that would rely on efforts to “contain” a nuclear weapons capable Iran;
(6) Urges the President to reaffirm the unacceptability of an Iran with nuclear-weapons capability and oppose any policy that would rely on containment as an option in response to the Iranian nuclear threat.
Still wondering if he will sign it.. it’s non binding but sends a message..