OTTAWA — The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran says Canada’s tough stand on the issue gives strength to those inside the country.
Ahmed Shaheed offered that assessment as Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird welcomed him to his Centre Block office on Parliament Hill on Thursday morning.
“Canada’s leadership in this regard is highly appreciated,” Shaheed said.
“A large number of Iran’s civil society also draws strength from the fact there are countries, leaders like Canada, who stand out and speak out against rights violations.”
Baird praised Shaheed’s work and says the rights situation in Iran has deteriorated in the last year.
The minister says that with the world preoccupied with the Iran’s nuclear ambitions it is also important to keep the focus on human rights.
“But for Canada, we’ve taken the leadership role on (the) human rights side in Iran.”
Baird said the election last year of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani hasn’t been a positive development, as some had hoped.
“Unfortunately the human rights situation has not only not improved, by any definition … it’s actually gotten worse.”
Baird said that makes the UN rapporteur’s role “crucially important.”
The minister said Canada is concerned by the number of executions in Iran, the persecution of gays and women and other crackdowns on dissent.
The UN Human Rights Council will conduct its periodic review of Iran’s record in Geneva on Friday.
Canada has taken one of the toughest stances of any country against Iran by closing its embassy in Tehran and kicking its diplomats out of Canada in 2012.
Much of Canada’s criticism flows from the 2003 torture and murder of Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi in a Tehran prison.
Kazemi, a Canadian citizen who was born in Iran, was arrested while photographing a demonstration outside Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison.
She was thrown in jail, where she was tortured and raped before dying in hospital weeks later.