Iranian News Agency Publishes ‘Fabricated’ Story Accusing UN Special Rapporteur of Misdeeds With Saudi Arabia

Asma Jahangir speaks at the 2012 Oslo Freedom Forum in a talk called “Building a Free Pakistan.” Photo from Oslo Freedom Forum and published with the intent to share.

Iranian authorities seemingly haven't given up their decades-long efforts to discredit the office of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation in Iran, which is tasked with reporting and highlighting the human rights abuses that the government denies are a problem.

The latest attempt came in the form of an article published on 15 March 2017 by state-owned Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA). Citing an unreliable source, it alleged current Special Rapporteur Asma Jahangir would soon secretly travel to Saudi Arabia — a country whose relationship with Iran is strained at best — where she would be offered bribes to adopt anti-Iran stances.

Jahangir, who has held her office for less than a year, has denied the allegations and called the report “fabricated.”

The article in question read:

خالد محمد الشریف کنسول عربستان در نیویورک به طور محرمانه از ‘عاصمه جهانگیر’ گزارشگر ویژه سازمان ملل برای انجام سفر یک سفر غیر رسمی و غیر علنی نه به ریاض دعوت به عمل آورد.
گزارشگر ویژه سازمان ملل به طور غیر علنی از عربستان دیدن می کند
تارنمای الوعی نیوز روز دوشنبه به نقل از یک مقام امنیتی ضمن اعلام این مطلب افزود: جهانگیر در آینده نزدیک با انجام این سفر محرمانه با مقامات و مسئولان سیاسی و نظامی عربستان دیدار کرده و در خصوص مسائل منطقه ای و بین المللی به بحث و گفت وگو خواهد پرداخت.
مقام مزبور که خواست نامش فاش نشود، گفت: مقامات سعودی در نظر دارند از جهانگیر بخواهند تا درباره برخی موضوعات مربوط به ایران و نیز اعلام حمایت از سازمان منافقین و قاچاقچیان مواد مخدر در مقابل دریافت 200 هزار دلار به عنوان پاداش علیه ایران موضعگیری کند.
عاصمه جهانگیر گزارشگر جدید سازمان ملل در اولین گزارش خود ادعاهای بی پایه و اساس
‘احمد شهید’ گزارشگر سابق علیه ایران را تکرار کرد.
جهانگیر پیشتر در گزارشی درباره اعدام قاچاقچیان مواد مخدر و غیرقانونی بودن همجنس بازی در ایران به شدت ابراز نگرانی کرده است.
لازم به یادآوری است سفارت عربستان در کویت یک میلیون دلار به عنوان رشوه به احمد شهید گزارشگر سابق سازمان ملل پرداخت کرد . وی نیز ضمن تشکر و قدردانی از وزیر خارجه عربستان قول داد تا تمام تلاش خود را برای شدت بخشیدن به اقدامات علیه ایران به کار ببرد.

Khalid bin Mohammed Al-Shareef, the Saudi consul [general] in New York, secretly invited Asma Jahangir, the UN special rapporteur, for an unofficial and private visit to Riadh.

According to a report on Alwaie News Agency website on Monday, quoting a security official, “Jahangir will make this secret trip in the near future to meet with Saudi officials and political and military authorities, and will discuss regional and international issues with them.”

The official, who requested anonymity, said: “Saudi authorities intend to ask Jahangir to assume stances against Iran about certain Iran-related issues, as well as announcing her support for the Hypocrites Organization [a reference to MEK, a banned Iranian group that advocates the overthrow of the current Iranian government] and drug traffickers, in return for $200,000 as a reward.”

In her first report, Asma Jahangir, the UN special rapporteur, repeated the baseless and unfounded claims of Ahmed Shaheed, the former special rapporteur, against Iran.

In an earlier report, Jahangir had expressed her extreme concern about the execution of drug traffickers and the illegality of homosexuality in Iran.

It is worth noting that the Saudi Embassy in Kuwait paid $1 million in bribes to former UN Rapporteur Ahmed Shaheed. [For his part], thanking the Saudi Foreign Minister, he promised to make every effort to intensify actions against Iran.

In the article, IRNA says its source for the information is Alwaie News Agency, an Arabic-language news source with an editorial line that often sympathizes with Shiite-majority countries in the Middle East, including Iran and Iraq, as well as the Bashar Al-Assad regime in Syria. It is unclear who the source for Alwaie is, nor who the anonymous official is.

It's not the first time that there's been a case of an Iranian news organization citing Alwaie to attack the UN special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran. During her predecessor Ahmed Shaheed's mandate (2011-2016), a similar accusation of cooperation with Saudi Arabia was leveled against him. Iran Front Page, a news site the translates Iranian media sources into English, claimed that documents leaked from the Saudi Arabian Foreign Ministry, released by Wikileaks as the “Saudi Cables,” contained evidence of Shaheed being bribed by Saudi Arabia to report the way he does on Iran's human right situation.

Wikileaks was quick to request a link to the cable in which such information allegedly appeared:

Which lead Iran Front Page to signal Alwaie as the source of the information, which in this case was proven to be a forgery.

The Guardian revealed last year that the forged document had been fabricated with help from a computer technique that merged two sets of different real diplomatic Saudi letterheads to create a new letterhead which does not exist elsewhere. It was then put on Alwaie's website and, another news agency with a bias similar to Alwaie.

‘Clearly aimed at compromising my integrity and independence’

Jahangir responded to IRNA's accusations in a press release denouncing them as a way to undermine her work highlighting issues the Iranian government would rather hide and suppress:

I am appalled by this fabricated and malicious news story which is clearly aimed at compromising my integrity and independence, both of which are recognized internationally. Anyone who has a substantive disagreement with a Special Rapporteur’s assessment can always express their doubts. However, it is unacceptable for mandate holders to be subjected to defamation campaigns when discharging their duties, which are established by the United Nations Human Rights Council. These accusations unfortunately reinforce the assessment I made in my first report to the UN Human Rights Council about the climate of fear which exists in Iran, where similar methods are used to silence those expressing dissenting opinions.

Ever since the Pakistani human rights activist took up the post in August 2016, she has experienced hostility from Iranian officials. The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Bahram Qassemi, reacted to the appointment in September by stating:

We have been principally opposed to the appointment of (UN) rapporteur on Iran.The historical irony is that the human rights rapporteur on Iran is appointed with the endorsement of Saudi Arabia, which is a child-murderer regime.

The state-owned broadcaster, the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcaster (IRIB), claimed Jahangir was a heretic and called her “Qadiani”, a derogatory term used for members of the Ahmadiyya Islamic movement. IRIB further accused Jahangir of being a follower of Ahmadiyya, which it said is a “misguided cult created by the British, just like the Baha’i.” The accusations stemmed from a 2010 campaign to discredit Jahangir as she fought for the rights of minorities and the destitute in Pakistan. The Ahmadiyya are considered to be heretics by many Muslims and face severe persecution in Pakistan.

Jahangir's March 2017 report to the 34th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council was summarily rejected by Iran. Tehran then asked the council to put an end to Jahangir's mission altogether, calling her report on the situation of human rights in Iran “politically motivated”.

“Given the noticeable human rights progress made in the Islamic Republic of Iran and its extensive and constructive interactions with the international human rights mechanisms, it is now time to end the special rapporteur’s mission in an appropriate way,” Kazem Gharibabadi, the Iran Human Rights Council director for international affairs, told its UN counterpart.

He also warned that the UN Human Rights Council’s “selective” and “politically tainted approach” towards certain countries would make cooperation between the two sides difficult.

Jahangir's March report highlighted many shortcomings in Iran's human rights situation despite the government's many positive declarations of changes. It outlined the state of many activists, journalists, trade unionists, lawyers, artists, women and ethnic and religious minorities who are increasingly being harassed and intimidated, arbitrarily detained under draconian laws, and subjected to torture and inhumane and degrading treatment for exercising or demanding their rights.

‘It just comes with the mandate’

Jahangir is the fifth such special rapporteur, who succeeded Ahmed Shaheed, a Maldivian diplomat and politician. Shaheed was given the mandate in June 2011, after the position lay vacant for nine years following the mandate of Maurice Copithorne.

All past rapporteurs expressed concerns about human rights violations in Iran but received little cooperation from the Iranian government. Copithorne, for example, was allowed in Iran only once at the beginning of his term.

In a 2011 interview , Copithorne, a Canadian diplomat and legal scholar, explained that accusations leveled at him while he served the mandate were commonplace:

I think they have to have a pretty thick skin because they will be attacked by various groups, including, of course, the government of Iran. A number of things circulated about me, personally and otherwise, during my time. You have to just take these in your stride and keep writing what you believe are accurate reports on the state of human rights. So you have to be prepared for a degree of this sort of activity — that is to say, the Iranian government's attempting to justify itself in various forms. It just comes with the mandate.

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