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Iran's Crusade for Human Rights; Will Try US Officials

Iran will try 26 US officials in abstentia for 'violating human rights' after the UN appoints a rights investigator to examine Iran's record
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 7/5/2011, 8:32 PM / Last Update: 7/5/2011, 10:25 PM

Iran said Tuesday it plans to try 26 US officials in abstentia for 'violating human rights,' Farsi-news outlet Qods reports. Most nations regard trials in abstentia a violation of a defendent's right to due process. 

The move is widely regarded by international observers as posturing on Iran's part aimed at turning the tables on Western nations who have been critical of Tehran's rights record.

Iranian Lawmaker Esmail Kosari told Iranian newspapers Monday the Americans would be tried in absentia and their files passed on to international tribunals. Kosari did not identify the officials, but it is likely they are the same people listed on a parliamentary bill to be subjected to Iranian sanctions.

That list included former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, his deputy Paul Wolfowitz, and military commanders at U.S. detention centers Abu Ghraib in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

There was no immediate comment Iran's threat of sanctions by US authorities.

The sanctions, which have yet to be approved by Iran's full parliament, come after the UN Human Rights Council appointment of a special investigator to look into human rights abuses in Iran .

Iranian lawmakers have called on the government to ban Ahmed Shaheed, the UN's appointed rights investigator and former Maldives foreign minister, from entering the country.

Iran's bombastic president Mahmoud Ahmadinijad has a long history of attempting to turn the rhetorical tables on the West when Iran finds itself in the spotlight.

 
"Unfortuanately human rights are being violated by certain powers, especially by those who pretend to be their exclusive advocates," Ahmadinejad told the UN General Assembly in 2007.
 
Iran has rejected allegations of human rights violations and denies it used excessive force to crush protests after the disputed re-election of hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in June 2009.

After brutally quelling the protests Ahmadinijad's government responded with executions and mass layoffs.

Tehran, however, insists US led wars in its neighbors Iraq and Afghanistan resulted in massive human rights violations.

"The Islamic Republic will diligently pursue the trials of these people and will support the legitimate rights of the oppressed people of the world," Kosari was quoted as saying by Qods daily.

Kosari said Iran's full parliament would vote on the sanctions bill in a few weeks' time.

Any Iranian sanctions are unlikely to have much impact since US officials are unlikely to have assets in the Islamic Republic or any plans to travel there. Prosecution of a US citizen in absentia in Iran would be little more than symbolic political posturing, most analysts say.

The United States has imposed several rounds of sanctions on Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

In recent years the US and its allies have secured UN Security Council backing for sanctions aimed at the Iran's nuclear program, which is widely believed by Western nations to be aimed at developing nuclear weapons.

Iran insists its nuclear program is purely peaceful, but IAEA investigator's say Iran has obstructed their attempts to inspect its uranium enrichment facilities and reactors under the Nuclear Non-Prolific Treaty, to which Iran is a signatory.

Last year the US started blacklisting senior Iranian officials it says were responsible for human rights abuses during the crackdown of post-elections protests.