Working towards a democratic and peaceful world – Rashida Manjoo

Statement by Rashida Manjoo, Professor, Department of Public Law, University of Cape Town, South Africa; Former United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences. She addressed the Free Iran rally on working towards a democratic and peaceful world.

Conference organized by the NCRITirana, Albania July 2019

Distinguished Delegates, Colleagues and Friends,

It is an honour for me to address you today and I would like to thank the sponsors and the organisers, Ashraf 3 and the NCRI Women’s Committee for inviting me to participate in this meeting. I am extremely grateful to all of you for the work that you do, and I thank you for the contributions you make in working towards a democratic and peaceful world. With the rise of authoritarian and undemocratic regimes in parts of the world, the promotion and protection of human rights, fundamental freedoms and rule of law demand greater and more urgent attention.

The activism and advocacy for a free and democratic Iran is being fought on many fronts by many individuals and organizations. Two examples that resonate today, include among others, the struggles of people from Camp Ashraf and the leadership of many, including Mrs Maryam Rajavi. It is humbling to hear about the struggle to escape from all forms of violence and oppression – but also affirming to see how people who have been resettled in Albania, continue to strive for a life of dignity. Thank you for including us today in your continuing struggle for a democratic Iran.

During my tenure as the UNSRVAW, communications were received frequently, to keep the UN informed of developments, and also requests for action by the international community. The challenges of international diplomacy and consequent delays in protection and prevention measures, is an indictment in many instances. However, the responsibility to protect, has led to the relocation and resettlement of Camp Ashraf residents to Albania -and is a consequence of local level activism and international interventions, underpinned by human rights and humanitarian goals. It is important to acknowledge that women have been instrumental in the struggle, including in leadership positions.

Mrs Rajavi and her team reflect the crucial role that women continue to play.

The use of international laws, norms and institutions, as part of a wider strategy for freedom, equality and dignity in a democratic Iran, is also visible in the work of women.

Challenging the use of religion as a justification for curtailing the human rights of women and girls, has been an integral part of the larger political struggle of Iranian women in the social justice and liberation movements. For the women of Iran, your struggles against all forms of oppression continue to be supported by many people around the world. Solidarity and support is an asset that one cannot put a monetary value on, and many of us identify with your struggles. Your experiences of human rights violations resonate, and reinforce the need to continue solidarity and support. You are not alone.

For decades, the global community has attempted to respond to situations of widespread and pervasive human rights violations – both through humanitarian and political efforts. Unfortunately, success has been patchy, and the elimination of conflicts and the achievement of peace and development remains a pipedream in many contexts – for example Afghanistan, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela etc. In respect of Iran, numerous UN reports indicate that the Iranian regime is guilty of widespread human rights abuses, including among others: violations of the right to life; the execution of people without proper due process (including juvenile offenders); torture and other ill-treatment (including flogging and amputations); violations of the right to freedom of opinion, expression and assembly (including on charges of violating of dress codes, spreading propaganda against the state, and gathering and colluding against national security); violations of the rights of women and girls; and discriminatory treatment of religious and ethnic minorities.

Free Iran Rally Rashida Manjoo
Ex UNSRVAW Rashida Manjoo addressing the Free Iran Rally in Tirana, Albania, July 13, 2019

The current Iran/US context, reflects the threats of military action and the imposition of further sanctions against individuals. The issue of nuclear weapons has led to speculations about what will happen next.

One consequence may be the strengthening of nationalism in Iran and also the rise of an even more authoritarian state. The diplomatic route, using international mechanisms for the maintenance of world peace and security, is not being fully utilised. Also, the current discourse is not about substantive and holistic measures that will result in structural and institutional change in Iran.

Thus, it is timely today to talk about the right to peace as a human right.

At the international level, in 2018 the UN adopted the theme of ‘The Right to Peace’ to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The UDHR is viewed as a milestone document in the history of human rights, dating back from 1948. Its Preamble foregrounds the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family as the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in our world. However, the UDHR does not include a separate article on the “Right to Peace”.

The quest to initiate global discussions on the Right to Peace dates back many years, including through the adoption of General Assembly Resolutions in 1978 and 1984. The 1984 Declaration recognises that the maintenance of a peaceful life for peoples is the sacred duty of each State and constitutes a fundamental obligation of each State. In 2016, the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Right to Peace. The negotiation and drafting process reflected that States generally agree on the common goal of promoting peace, but have different views about the concept of the right to peace as a human right in itself.

The focus of peace, human rights and development also links to the UN Sustainable Development Agenda 2030. This policy document seeks to strengthen universal peace in larger freedoms – and the goals and targets are ambitious in the quest to foster peaceful, just and inclusive societies which are free from fear and violence. Sustainable Development Goal 16 on “Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions” calls for promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, providing access to justice for all, and building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. This is a goal that must be supported and implemented in Iran.

The right to peace and development are crucial to the realisation of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. Political systems and conflicts that impede citizen’s realization of a broad range of human rights, are a barrier to the exercise of full participatory citizenship. We all have a responsibility to work towards these objectives, as part of our contribution to a peaceful world that respects, protects and realises human rights.

Thank you.