Iran rights charter has no power over judiciary
TEHRAN - Iran's new charter of rights outlining freedoms of speech, protest and fair trials does not apply to the detention of opposition leaders and dual nationals, the bill's architect says.
The Charter of Citizens' Rights, released last month by the office of President Hassan Rouhani, embodies freedoms including the right to trial in open court without arbitrary detention.
But Elham Aminzadeh, special assistant to Rouhani on citizens' rights, said in an interview that the bill has no power over the judiciary or parliament and only covers the civil service and other parts of the executive.
"I cannot put an article in this charter for the judiciary or legislative," said Aminzadeh, who spent three years compiling the document.
Asked about the continued house arrest without trial of opposition leaders since anti-government protests in 2009, she said: "It is not very related to the executive or administrative power. It is something else. I cannot answer to this."
On the trials of dual nationals, who have recently been jailed in closed-door courts, Aminzadeh said: "Security prisoners have a special process inside the judiciary. We cannot say anything about special security prisoners.
"We talk to the judiciary, but just talk and notifying -- nothing more," she added.
Recent months have seen several cases such as that of British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, sentenced to five years in prison for "sedition", and US-Iranian Siamak Namazi and his father, both given 10 years for espionage, which have caused outrage around the world.
Aminzadeh said she hoped the charter might one day be made into law by parliament and extended to all branches of government, but she indicated this was not a pressing concern.
"In comparing to other countries, I think (the human rights situation in Iran) is good, but it can be better," she said.
Aminzadeh denied the charter was just an attempt to win votes ahead of Rouhani's likely bid for re-election in May. It had been a key campaign promise in 2013.
"It's not a slogan... It is not just for the Rouhani government, it is for the next 100 years," she said.
- 'Double standards' -
Pressed on the detention of dissidents and journalists, and other allegations of rights violations, Aminzadeh said these were largely invented by the foreign media and NGOs.
"I don't know why of the many different human rights violations around the world, the foreign media is not keen on discussing them," she said, highlighting the use of chemical weapons by Iraq in the 1980s.
She accused Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International of picking on Iran and ignoring rights abuses in countries like Bahrain and Yemen -- saying this was "double standards".
In the past five years, Human Rights Watch has written 14 long reports on Yemen and five on Bahrain, compared with four on Iran.
Reformist commentators in Iran have given a mixed response to the charter.
An editorial by the Association of the Reformists, published on social media network Telegram, said the charter was "good but not enough".
Rouhani "should form a committee with representatives of all branches of power and endeavour to execute this bill so it does not look like an election gesture to the public," it said.
But Mohammad Fazeli, an official with the Centre for Strategic Studies think tank, which comes under the president's office, said: "Words are not neutral".
"They will gradually pierce the hard planks of resistance," he wrote in a column for reformist paper Arman.