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Iran and a human rights guarantee

By Paul Taylor

 TEHRAN' (Reuter) -- The human rights which the Iranian revojut Was meant to guarantee, many of them contained in the country's Is1an constitution, are in danger from Uncontrolled groups of Moslem fundamen- talists. . That Is the view of veteran J human rights lawyer Ab- , dolkarim Lahiji, It is shared be by many of the liberal and lef- List intellectuals who were er jailed arid sometimes tortured ir- uf hr the deposed Shah's rule. “The Constitution guarantees UP a wide range of freedom of ex- se pression, publication, re'igion in- and freedom from arbitary ar- rig rest, but in practice those he freedoms are violated every ce day• by uncontrolled element- s,' Dr. Lahiji said in an inter- it- View. ii- “If liberty cannot be assured by social guarantees, then It is as if there were no freedom at all,” he added. According to Lahiji, the main authors of unconstltut1o ai human rights violations are the “hezbollahj” -. literally “followers of the party of God” - who form Street groups to attack demon- strations, burn book stalls and assault the offices of newspapers and political groups. Vigilante groups Throwing stones and often wielding knives, chains and clubs, the hezbollahj regularly disrupt authorized demon- strations of the radical Islamic Mujahedjn movement and other leftist groups. Revolutionary guards, respon- sible for ensuring law and or- der at such gatherings, rarely make any effort to stop the squads. ‘J'he independent Bamdad newspaper, the largest publication not controlled by the ruling clergy, has been at- tacked three Limes by groups of hezbollahj, who last year closed several liberal and left - leaning newspapers. “It got so bad at one stage that we closed down because the authorities could not guarai tee our securitS,,” said one amd.d journ 1ist'. “Now, we are open açain but we ha ,e to be very cautious in • what ‘e write.” Article 32 of Iran's new con-i stitutlon states that ‘“unless' othei4jse prescribed by law, no one can be arre gd ar- • bitrarijy. When an arrest is made, the accused must be. immediately informed of the reasons for the arrest.” Despite this, Islamic vigilante groups, who often arrest without warrants, hold people for weeks without authorization and in many cases appear to be answerable to nobody. Right to publish Revolutionary leader Ayatol- lah Ruhollah Khomeini has banned the arrest of people without a warrant, but the practice persists. “In the first weeks of the revolution, this was understan- dable, if not legally accep- table, but now it is indefen- sible and unconstitutional,” Lahiji said. -‘ -a Tha”-r ' .gh to pubIi E”'a newspaper, although upheld in the constitution, in fact depends on a lengthy bureaucratic procedure desig- ned to silence vociferous ponents of the authorities, For months the authorities turned a blind eye to the proliferation of leftist papers appearing without a license. When leftist paper iellers were beaten up or occasionally splashed with acid by hezbol- laid, officials shrugged off the incidents. But now revolutionary prosecutor Ayatollah All Ghodussi has taken a harder line against the leftists, lie recently banned 40 left - wing .newspaper's and threatened jail terrris of three to six mon- ths for anyone caught selling them. Iran's religious minorities provide a other example where Constitutional freedoms are unevently enforced in practice. Token s t eps The authorities have taken no more than token steps to Coun- ter an apparent assault on the country's tiny Anglican Church community. Bahram Dehgani, son of the Anglican bishop of the Middle East. was shot dead in broad daylight in a Tchran street. It was the culmination of six months of attacks on Rishop Dehgani, now in exile in Cyprus , his family and aides. His English secretary. Jean WaddeU, was shot and seriously wounded only a week earlier. Four members of. the Ar. menian Christians compsunity. arrested for distributing leaflets on April 21, the an- niversary of an Armenian massacre in Turkey in 1915, had disappeared without trace, an Armenian lawyer said. Members of the Jewish com- munity, who also enjoy con- stitutional protection, say they are alarmed at a recent spate of revolutionary trials of Jewish busiiessmen on charges ranging from corrup- tion to Jewish activism. “If somebody is corrupt. that is one thing. But if they are saying that it is a revolutionary offenseto host a meeting of the Jewish society in your hone or business, that's something different and very dangerous' a Jewish trader commented. Lahij said the minority in greates . danger was 4 the Baha'i community, followers of a dissident sect of Islam, who have no Constitutional rights.

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Tagged as:

Due Process, Freedom of Religion, Free Speech, Political Freedom