Iran is an explicitly Islamic Republic with a guiding political role reserved for the clergy, and it is unlikely that its government would respond favourably to encouragement to become a more secular society. However, Ireland and our EU partners will certainly continue to do all we can to encourage a greater respect for human rights in Iran. It is encouraging that the new Government has made some positive signals in that respect. Ireland strongly urges Iran’s new President Mr Hassan Rouhani, who has received a strong mandate from the Iranian people, to improve the human rights situation in Iran.
I raised the issue of human rights in Iran in a bilateral meeting with new Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on 26 September, in the margins of the UN General Assembly session in New York, following an earlier phone contact with him. I particularly expressed Ireland’s concerns about Iran’s use of the death penalty. In addition, while welcoming the release of several Iranian prisoners of conscience, including human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, in Iran this month, I strongly encouraged the release of more political prisoners. Indeed, many further practical steps are needed to mark a real change in the human rights situation in Iran. In particular, together with EU partners, I urge President Rohani to immediately end the house arrest of former Presidential candidates Mir Houssein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi and to release all those imprisoned for non-violent political beliefs or for belonging to a particular religious minority, such as the Baha’i. Furthermore, in line with the EU's strong position of principle on the death penalty, I reiterate Ireland and the EU’s call on Iran to halt all pending executions, and introduce a moratorium on this cruel and inhumane punishment.
I am encouraged by the agreement in principle by HR Ashton and FM Zarif in New York last week to re-launch the EU-Iran Human Rights dialogue in the near future. I hope this renewed dialogue can lead to further actions by the Iranian government to improve the overall human rights situation in Iran.
In March 2013, following a review, the Foreign Affairs Council prolonged the EU restrictive measures against certain individuals in response to serious human rights violations in Iran by 12 months. The Council also added 9 persons responsible for serious human rights violations to the list of those subject to a travel ban and an asset freeze. This brings the number of persons targeted to 87. The Council also decided to subject one entity responsible for human rights violations to an asset freeze. The EU has also banned the export of equipment for monitoring internet and telephone communications. In addition, equipment which might be used for internal repression may not be exported to Iran.
The measures are now valid until 13 April 2014. In deciding whether to increase, maintain or reduce restrictive measures against individuals, the EU will consider the actions of these specific individuals with respect to human rights. These measures should not be confused with the sanctions related to the nuclear issue, which are a separate matter.