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Procedure : 2012/2877(RSP)
Document stages in plenary
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Texts tabled :


Debates :

PV 22/11/2012 - 17.1
CRE 22/11/2012 - 17.1

Votes :

PV 22/11/2012 - 18.1
CRE 22/11/2012 - 18.1

Texts adopted :


Thursday, 22 November 2012 - Strasbourg OJ edition

17.1. Human rights situation in Iran, particularly mass executions and the recent death of the blogger Sattar Beheshti

  President. − The next item is the human rights situation in Iran, particularly mass executions and the recent death of the blogger Sattar Beheshti(1).


  Raül Romeva i Rueda, author. Mr President, the human rights situation in Iran is constantly deteriorating. Numerous cases of ill-treatment, torture, medical neglect and death in Iranian prisons have been documented. Sattar Beheshti, a 35-year-old blogger, was arrested on 30 October by Iran’s cyber police in a raid on his mother’s home in Robat Karim. They also confiscated a number of his personal belongings, including his computers.

Mr Beheshti’s family tried to get information from security and judicial officials about his whereabouts and the reason for his arrest. No answer was given until 6 November, when police officials told the family that the blogger had died in custody. The authorities did not provide any explanation for his death. This is why in this resolution we strongly want to demand an immediate investigation into the circumstances of Sattar Beheshti’s death in custody and call for the prosecution of the officials responsible. We also have to recognise the right of the family to clarify all the circumstances surrounding his death.

We also need to remember the execution, on 22 October, of ten Iranians accused of drug-related offences. We are concerned that they did not receive a fair trial and they were subjected to torture during their detention.

Probably, in many cases, none of this is new. The problem is that we are being forced once again to ask the Iranian authorities to ensure that prisoners are not subjected to any torture or other ill-treatment and that they are allowed to have regular access to lawyers of their choice and medical treatment when needed. Let us not forget that Iran has also ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.


  Jaroslav Paška, author. (SK) Mr President, we all know that the Iranian regime is not fulfilling its obligations under international law and the agreements it has signed.

The persistent contravention of fundamental citizens’ rights in this country by state, disciplinary, security and judicial bodies is creating an atmosphere of fear and repression in the country. While critics of the regime are persecuted, bullied, imprisoned and tortured, members of the repressive security units abuse the privilege of absolute impunity for the brutality committed against the Iranian people. Evidence of this is the torture of Sattar Beheshti or the execution of Saeed Seddighi. Even though the Iranian parliament has undertaken to investigate the death of Sattar Beheshti in a prison cell, we cannot overlook the fact that many more defenders of human rights are in Iranian prison cells in fear for their lives. We must therefore use all possible means such as sanctions, international diplomacy or targeted restrictive measures to stop this brutal repression of the Iranian people by the state authorities.


  Véronique De Keyser, author. (FR) Mr President, I think that we can understand many things about Iran and we can accept that it is a country with which we must negotiate. We can also understand the desire for the denuclearisation of the Middle East. We can understand many things, but I cannot understand the cruelty of this regime when it comes to human rights.

I must say that it goes beyond the political; there has been a significant rise in the number of death sentences imposed, a blogger has died in suspicious circumstances and our repeated requests to meet the two winners of the Sakharov Prize have met with no response.

I am therefore appealing to the Iranian authorities right now – in the very spirit of reaching out to them – to consider their approach to human rights. I doubt we can ever understand each other if this chapter remains closed.

I would also like, in December, to be able to celebrate the award of the Sakharov Prize with its two winners, Nasrin Sotoudeh, who is currently on hunger strike, and Jafar Panahi, who is appealing a sentence against him and who risks going to prison. These two laureates were chosen not in defiance of Iran, but because, for us, they represent freedom and human rights.


  Struan Stevenson, author. Mr President, the fascist Iranian regime has used the smokescreen of Gaza to accelerate the number of executions and amputations that have been taking place in that country. More than 80 people have been executed in the past ten days, but that simply adds to the 120 000 people executed over the past 30 years – many of them supporters of the opposition PMOI. I have here a volume that contains the first volume of 20 000 names of executed PMOI supporters in the fascist-run regime of Iran, which is an absolute outrage.

It is also an outrage that this Parliament tried to send a friendship delegation last month to visit these murderers. The only reason they were stopped was because we awarded the Sakharov Prize to the Iranian dissident, Nasrin Sotoudeh, who is now on her sixth day of hunger strike and is critically ill. We must never send a friendship delegation to that fascist regime again.


  Sari Essayah, author. (FI) Mr President, Commissioner, the current Iranian Government flagrantly violates human rights and tramples on the basic freedoms of its citizens.

This time, we are also paying particular attention to executions, and especially to 35-year-old blogger Sattar Beheshti, who died of torture at Evin prison last week. The reason for his detention was merely his political opinion and criticism of the Iranian Government on Facebook. The international community and human-rights organisations have taken notice of this manslaughter by the Iranian Government, and have also expressed concern for the safety of Mr Beheshti’s family.

Mr Beheshti’s death has drawn attention to the miserable human-rights situation in the country, but not everyone can see the bigger picture or how the Iranian Government is working behind the scenes to influence a weakening of the security situation in the entire Middle East. The current Iranian Government is the greatest threat to world peace. It is quite incomprehensible that the international community mainly sees from the sidelines how the Iranian Government has quietly been able to develop its military nuclear weapons programme and remain indifferent to the opinions of the International Atomic Energy Agency, among others. The current leadership of the country can make public threats to destroy Israel, another member of the UN, and supports the Hezbollah terrorist group, which operates in Lebanon and Syria, and during the most recent crisis in the Middle East it sent weapons to Hamas, among other things. At the same time, the current Iranian Government has put pressure on Iraq concerning their treatment of the Iranian opposition, who are currently in Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty.

I do hope that both this EP resolution and particularly also the output from the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Baroness Ashton, will have even sharper wording, and that we can continue to make real progress in these tough economic times, so that Iran and its current government starts to take responsibility for the poor treatment of its own citizens.


  Paul Murphy, author. Mr President, the tragic death of Sattar Beheshti as a result of brutal torture in the infamous Evin prison following his arrest for so-called ‘actions against national security’ on social networks and Facebook is, unfortunately, not an isolated case at all. According to Human Rights Watch, at least 15 people detained for exercising their basic rights have died in custody or as a result of injuries from alleged mistreatment or neglect since 2009. Added to that is the massive number of activists who have been executed on trumped-up charges. Some estimates put that number at 660 people in 2011.

This repression and brutality needs to end now. Of course, this repression and brutality also should not be used as a pretext for military action against Iran. The international working class and anti-war movement must stand against any military action or sanctions against the Iranian people, while at the same time supporting their struggle to release all political prisoners, end state torture, end the death penalty and overthrow this regime.


  Kristiina Ojuland, author. Mr President, on 22 October Sattar Beheshti wrote in his blog, and let me quote: ‘the sentences and (...) the executions carried out (...) were not out of a desire for justice – but were aimed at terrorising the people! So that no one will complain!’ Soon after that he was arrested and tortured. He reportedly died in custody on 3 November. Although the exact circumstances surrounding his death have not yet been established, several reports indicate that he died as a direct result of torture. This shows the barbaric, unlawful and violent nature of the Iranian regime. This needs to change and the EU needs to step up in encouraging the Iranian authorities to re-engage in a human rights dialogue.

I would like to send my deepest condolences to Sattar Beheshti’s family, and to others who have suffered because of the cruel violence of the regime which this House has discussed so many times, unfortunately without a result as yet.


  Bernd Posselt, on behalf of the PPE Group. (DE) Mr President, at the initiative of the International Society for Human Rights (ISHR), I have taken on a political sponsorship for Mr Bahman Ahmadi-Amouie, one of Iran’s best-known journalists. He has been in prison for five years for the same reasons as those which led to the death of the blogger whom we are discussing today and which are also resulting in the persecution of our Sakharov Prize laureates. All that these people have done is to exercise their right to freedom of speech, which is one of the most fundamental human and civil rights.

Iran has absolutely no right to be expected to be treated like a normal state while it fails to grant these minimum basic rights. Of course we must negotiate and maintain contacts. Iran is one of the world’s most ancient countries and cultures. However, it should act accordingly and exercise humaneness towards people whose only act was to voice their opinions freely and openly.


  George Sabin Cutaş, on behalf of the S&D Group. (RO) Mr President, Sattar Beheshti is not only the latest example of violations of the freedom of expression but he represents the voice of a civil society whose freedoms and aspirations are systematically and brutally repressed. As long as a civil society exists in Iran, the European Parliament will continue to defend its fundamental rights.

I call on the Iranian authorities to launch an impartial investigation into the circumstances that led to the death of Sattar Beheshti while in detention and inform his family of the results of this investigation. I wish to express my concern for the Sakharov Prize winners, Nasrin Sotoudeh and Jafar Panahi, and I call on the Iranian authorities to stop its repression of civil society.


  Janusz Wojciechowski, on behalf of the ECR Group. – Mr President, this is not the first time we have criticised Iran for its executions, but unless we take some serous action, the regime will continue this. Some things should not be forgotten: in 1988, when Mir-Hossein Mousavi was Prime Minister, 30 000 political prisoners were executed in cold blood in less than three months. Most of them were from the People’s Mujahedin of Iran. This is one of the worst crimes in modern history that has not yet been brought to any international tribunal.

I also wanted to draw attention to the difficult situation facing Kurdish people. There are at least 23 Kurdish political prisoners on death row, including Ali Afshari, Houshang Rezaei, Behrouz Alkhani and Loghman Moradi. It is time for us to take action. We must immediately stop all business with Iran and impose full sanctions so that the regime realises that human rights violations will cost it dearly.


  Marie-Christine Vergiat, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. (FR) Mr President, if I have counted correctly, this is the seventh urgent motion for a resolution we will have adopted on Iran since this term began. It is true that the human rights situation in Iran is troubling and that this country has the dubious honour of topping the list of the most executions per capita: there have been 383 individual public executions since the beginning of the year, six group executions since 27 October 2012 and 20 public hangings on 7 and 8 November 2012 alone. The regime is attempting to speed up the execution of almost a thousand prisoners through the creation of a ‘death committee’. The lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, to whom we awarded the Sakharov Prize, is on hunger strike and, yes, the death of the blogger Sattar Beheshti, tortured while in custody, is shocking.

However, I cannot help wondering what purpose our resolutions serve. The number of executions in this country keeps on rising: they increased fourfold last year. Would we not be more useful if we expended our energy on other matters? We are not here, ladies and gentlemen, merely to appease our consciences.


  Justas Vincas Paleckis (S&D). – Mr President, the human rights situation in Iran has deteriorated rapidly in recent years and months. The lack of transparency concerning the recent imprisonment and death of the 35-year-old Iranian blogger, Sattar Beheshti, has demonstrated that Iran is flagrantly disrespecting the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The recent executions of many Iranian citizens, who may not have received a fair trial, and the continuing mistreatment of the human rights lawyer and Sakharov Prize winner, Nasrin Sotoudeh, also cause great concern. I call on the Iranian authorities to respect human rights and increase the transparency of their judicial and prison systems and to place a moratorium on capital punishment immediately.


  Charles Tannock (ECR). – Mr President, we in this House have watched with grave alarm over many years now as the human rights situation in Iran – not to mention the political situation, as well – continues to deteriorate. As this resolution makes clear, the Iranian regime is guilty of the most egregious abuses of basic human rights, sentencing hundreds of people to death on spurious grounds and without due process or trial, violently oppressing women, gay people and other minorities such as the Ahwazi Arabs, Baluchis, Baha’is, Kurds and so on, and cracking down on any kind of political dissent.

The death in custody now of Sattar Beheshti, a blogger, is a grave crime which must not go unpunished. We in this Parliament must summon all the resources of the EU to assist the Iranian people in their struggle against state repression. Awarding the Sakharov Prize to Nasrin Sotoudeh and Jafar Panahi was a significant and symbolic step, but surely just the beginning of a process. We can only hope that a new momentum of diplomatic pressure might persuade the brutal Iranian Government to improve its legal and judicial processes and to stop persecuting its own citizens, who deserve much better.


Catch-the-eye procedure


  Edit Bauer (PPE). – Mr President, as we see Iran achieve an industrial framework for the execution of people, it seems to me that the story of Sattar Beheshti is quite clear evidence of that. Allow me to quote from his blog: ‘Yesterday they threatened me, saying I should tell my mother that she would soon be wearing black clothes if I did not shut up. If you do not shut your big mouth we do whatever we want. You must shut up and should not inform, otherwise you will be strangled anonymously. Day and night threatening phone calls do not stop. As an Iranian I say I cannot remain silent in the face of these miseries’. Unfortunately, we today should pay tribute to these political prisoners and express solidarity with his family, but it seems to me that we need to do more, that we need to act.


  Bogusław Sonik (PPE). (PL) Mr President, our resolution is also addressed to the citizens of Iran. It is a signal sent to them from the very centre of the European Union, which is the voice of the free world. It is also an expression of our concern and an assurance that we have not forgotten them. First and foremost, however, is a message of hope that freedom and civil liberties will flourish in Iran at some time in the future.

Solidarity is our greatest strength. It was solidarity that allowed us to achieve our greatest successes in Europe. I would like to say to the Member from France that for decades, debates on freedom, liberties and citizens’ rights in Central and Eastern Europe were held in this Chamber and in other venues in this Parliament, and resolutions adopted. In the end, the Wall did fall. That is why we should not lose hope or lose confidence and belief that these meetings and resolutions have a purpose. Our support is vital to all those who are suffering.


  Zita Gurmai (S&D). – Mr President, since the 2009 protests which followed the last Iranian presidential elections, the human rights situation in Iran has steadily deteriorated. The growing numbers of political prisoners, the rising number of executions, unfair trials, the use of torture, and restrictions of fundamental liberties are just some examples of the increase in human rights violations. The recent death of Sattar Beheshti is a tragic reminder of the situation.

This issue is sometimes obscured by tensions over the Iranian nuclear power programme, which also needs to be firmly addressed. It is high time to reflect on the most effective ways to engage in a productive dialogue with the Iranian authorities on the basis of the EU dual-track approach. We should keep in mind that the effect of far-reaching sanctions can be counterproductive, as they result in increasing difficulties for ordinary citizens. Therefore, we should make full use of new tools, such as the Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights, and swiftly assess its efficiency. Finding an effective balance between dialogue and sanctions is crucial if we want to achieve tangible results.


  Marek Henryk Migalski (ECR). (PL) Mr President, as a general rule, I never agree with Ms Vergiat. We differ on almost everything, but on this occasion she is right. We may well feel disappointed that the many documents and resolutions we produce do not bear fruit. We are, however, duty bound to do this work. One of the reasons why we were elected was to produce such texts. They are important. They are important also for those who are currently in Iran, and the danger presented or spread by Iran involves two types of threat. The first is an internal threat, and this is what we are referring to today. It means that the regime is threatening its citizens and denying them their fundamental rights.

We should also bear the second threat in mind. I refer to the second problem posed by Iran, namely that it is a country that is also threatening the outside world. We should remember that in fighting for the rights of the people of Iran we are actually also fighting for the universal right to live in peace and harmony.


  Cristian Dan Preda (PPE). (RO) Mr President, the recent death of the Iranian blogger Sattar Beheshti illustrates the tragic state of human rights in that country. In this Parliament, we have repeatedly denounced human rights violations in Iran. Indeed, human rights activists – journalists, bloggers, artists, students, lawyers, union members – are regularly subjected to government pressure and live under the constant threat of ending up in Iranian prisons.

That was the fate of Mr Beheshti, whose bravery in denouncing the abuses of the Iranian regime led to his death in prison. According to several sources, he died as a result of torture. Knowing Iran’s record of prison deaths, this conclusion is justified. Nevertheless, we must insist that the parties responsible for his death are punished.

On behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats), which supported the candidacy of Nasrin Sotoudeh and Jafar Panahi for the Sakharov Prize, I wish to conclude by calling for their immediate release.


  Corina Creţu (S&D). (RO) Mr President, the murder of the Iranian blogger Sattar Beheshti for simply and peacefully expressing his opinions in his blog is extremely shocking. It is just one of many crimes committed by the Tehran regime, which has once again demonstrated its absurd inhumanity.

As previously noted here, we must do more than condemn strongly the terrible crime of ending this young blogger’s life by torture. I, too, call on the Iranian authorities to investigate this murder and end its brutal repression of freedom of expression.

The European Union must demand that Iran introduce a moratorium on executions, which have increased significantly, and take steps to abolish the death penalty, which also applies to minors. Sanctions to force the Iranian regime to respect its citizens’ human rights and fundamental freedoms must be applied.


  Seán Kelly (PPE). – Mr President, not for the first time, and I fear not for the last time, we are once again discussing the appalling situation in Iran. This is a country that is run not just by dictators, but by what could honestly be described as savages. They have no respect for international law and they have no respect for their own people, whom they arrest and murder almost willy-nilly if they do not agree with them. This is a country that wants its citizens to be yes-men and yes-women. If they are not, they are in grave danger.

The case of Mr Beheshti is a case in point. He was arrested, tortured and murdered and his family was told to come to collect him. It is time for the international community to get tough with Iran and to impose sanctions that will have an impact on the regime and force it at least to respect international law and fundamental rights.


  Mitro Repo (S&D). (FI) Mr President, there are repeated violations of fundamental and human rights in Iran. The victims are defenders of human rights as well as everyday citizens who highlight the injustices that they experience through their personal blogs and community services.

Iran’s internet police, Fata, also engage in state-sponsored interference in people’s private lives. The work of journalists is controlled, and the freedom of artists to work is restricted. Parliament should send a strong message to Iran that harassment and persecution of its citizens cannot be approved of. Sattar Beheshti’s torture and death in police custody should be investigated and the perpetrators condemned. An open society where there is debate is ultimately also of benefit to the state and to those in power. Iran should be encouraged to discuss even sensitive matters.


  Elena Băsescu (PPE). (RO) Mr President, freedom of expression is one of the basic principles of democracy. The case of the Iranian blogger is particularly worrying. His arrest and subsequent death in suspicious circumstances raise serious questions about the democratic principles of the Iranian authorities. These practices must be discouraged at all cost.

As a defender of human rights, the Union must find way to put pressure on the Iranian authorities. Political prisoners must be released without delay and the discrimination against religious minorities must end. I wish to express my concern for the Sakharov Prize winners, who are due to receive the Prize in Parliament in December. Iran must restore its credibility and respect the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.


  Ryszard Czarnecki (ECR). – Mr President, I am also very appalled by these executions in Iran. Just between 22 October and 14 November this year 100 people were executed by the regime. We know there have been about 120 000 executions since 1979. No other country in the world has this rate of executions, and still we have a French delegation in Parliament seeking to improve relations with Iran. It is really controversial.

Political executions in Iran today are carried out on the pretext of alleged drug crimes. Most of the executed prisoners belong to the People’s Mujahedin of Iran, an organisation that has been pressing for democratic change for three decades. Some of the PMOI prisoners currently sentenced to death are Habibollah Latifi, Zanyar Moradi, Mostafa Salimi and Habib Afshari.


(End of the catch-the-eye procedure)


  Olli Rehn, Vice-President of the Commission. Mr President, I would like to thank Members for their very pertinent views and for the serious debate today. The European Union is seriously concerned about the deteriorating human rights record in Iran. The continuous repression of political opponents, human rights defenders, journalists, artists, bloggers, lawyers, women and minority groups is a real problem.

The European Parliament is playing an important role in denouncing this situation. The award of this year’s Sakharov Prize to two leading Iranians defending freedom of thought – the lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, and the film director Jafar Penahi – is a very significant example of Parliament’s commitment to human rights.

The tragic death of blogger Sattar Beheshti in custody is a poignant example of the precarious situation of human rights activists in Iran. The European Union responded swiftly by urging the Iranian authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into the circumstances of his death. Afterwards the Iranian judiciary announced that an inquiry had been launched and that the persons responsible would be prosecuted. We shall of course closely follow developments.

Early October saw a spate of arrests of prominent human rights lawyers. The EU reacted to this on several fronts by summoning the Iranian Ambassador to the EU in Brussels, issuing a statement and carrying out a démarche in Tehran.

Iran’s extensive use of the death penalty is particularly worrisome. So far we have confirmation of 338 executions this year. This reconfirms that Iran is one of the world’s most frequent users of capital punishment. In addition, collective and public executions are common in Iran. The EU has a strong stance against the death penalty and we have repeatedly condemned executions in Iran. The High Representative and Vice-President, Catherine Ashton, issued her latest statement on 23 October condemning the collective executions of 10 Iranians charged with drug smuggling.

The EU also remains deeply concerned about the position of ethnic and religious minorities in Iran. Despite constitutional guarantees of equality, they are subject to an array of discriminatory laws and practices. We are using all tools available to raise awareness and call on Iran to respect the principles of equal treatment and non-discrimination. We recall that 78 individuals are now on the EU human rights sanctions list for human rights violations in Iran. The list is reviewed on a regular basis to take into account developments in the country.

Finally, the EU fully supports the role of the UN special rapporteur on Iran, Mr Shaheed, and we have officially called on Iran to facilitate his visit to the country.


  President. − The debate is closed.

The vote will take place at the end of the debate.

Written statements (Rule 149)


  Tadeusz Zwiefka (PPE), in writing. (PL) Cases of human rights violations are commonplace in Iran. The international media and NGOs are constantly informing the world of further mass executions. Iran is starting to specialise in these, and is now second on the global list of countries implementing the death penalty. We are well aware that under the Sharia law currently in force, the death penalty can be imposed for murder, adultery, rape, armed attack, drug trafficking and apostasy. The death penalty is implemented in public, even in the case of minors, and court proceedings often fail to comply with any of the criteria for a fair trial. A recent much-publicised case involved the hanging of 22 people for drug trafficking. Political assassinations are often carried out behind prison walls. This is what happened for example to Sattar Beheshti. He was arrested for allegedly committing a cybercrime, which proved to be posting comments on the social and political situation in Iran on a blog. Mr Beheshti died after spending a few days in detention. The circumstances surrounding the death of this 35-year-old blogger are shrouded in secrecy. We must therefore add our voice to those calling on the Iranian authorities to provide a detailed explanation of these events. Freedom of speech is being stifled in Iran on a daily basis. Many opposition activists and journalists have been imprisoned, including foreign ones. Having been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the European Union now has a particular responsibility to speak out against violations of human rights.


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