Positive outcomes of formulating the civil rights charter in Iran

Iran Review|Hossein Kebriaeizadeh: While President Hassan Rouhani is going through the last months of his term in office as Iran’s chief executive, he finally signed and notified to executive bodies his promised civil rights charter on December 19. In addition to resolution of the nuclear issue and reducing inflation, this 120-article charter was among the main promises that Iran’s moderate president had given Iranian people during election campaigning, which has now been finalized after many controversies.

The charter is a legal document, which was first talked about during the first 100 days of Rouhani’s presidency and elicited a wave of criticism at that time. Therefore, the administration of President Rouhani accepted the criticism and waited for three years in order for the last version of the charter to be finalized.

Most criticism of the charter stemmed from uncertainty about its implementation, but it seems that the administration of President Rouhani has made necessary plans in this regard. An advisor to Iran’s president has told the media that the charter actually lays out Iran’s strategy with regard to civil rights, adding that Rouhani has issued a special order to three ministries of education; science, research and technology; as well as health and medical sciences to provide necessary grounds in order to inform the public, especially the young and educated social groups, of their civil rights.

Drawing up legal bills to be presented to the parliament by the administration is another way through which Iran’s president has been trying to legitimize the charter and, in better words, guarantee its implementation. However, as long as such bills have not been passed by the parliament, they would only be binding for the executive bodies. In order to speed up the implementation of the charter, Hassan Rouhani has given the executive bodies six months in order to amend the existing legal and executive mechanisms of Iran’s administrative system in accordance with the charter.

However, this issue is being pursued by the Iranian administration at a time that a few months have remained before the end of the incumbent administration. Therefore, it would have been better if the charter had been finalized at most during the second year of Rouhani’s term in office, so that, seven committees that specialize in various aspects of civil rights would have more time to focus on various steps for its implementation.

Apart from all criticism, the positive point about this document is that the Iranian version of the civil rights charter is very similar in contents to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, because one of the norms used by those people who drew up the Iranian charter has been to take advantage of the past experiences of international community and the common human heritage in this regard. The positions adopted by the Iranian civil rights charter on such issues as the definition of citizenship, the rights of religious minorities, the right to freedom of speech, the rights of children and women and so forth are among those instances in which the two documents are compatible and coordinated.

The charter has done its best to keep the balance between legal achievements of humanity and those of Islam. Therefore, in view of the existing challenges between Iran and the West over issues related to human rights, which mostly emanate from religious and cultural differences between the two sides, the charter can be taken as a suitable basis and gravitational center for human rights dialogue between Iran and international community.

On the other hand, the civil rights charter delineates Iran’s approach to the most important of human rights issues, including the rights of women, the rights of prisoners, the free flow of information and so forth. Therefore, it can be very important to both Iran and international community in that most Western criticisms about alleged violations of human rights in Iran have their root in ambiguities, which are highlighted by certain parties on the basis of political motivations and are then publicized as instances of human rights violations by Iran.

Therefore, due to the comprehensive nature of the Iranian civil rights charter, this document provides a good ground for having complete insight into the Iranian approach to human rights issues. Such an insight can provide needed grounds for exchange of viewpoints between Iran and international community on this subject.

Inside the country, building a unified discourse on civil rights is a prominent step in view of the different viewpoints that exist among various political and civil rights groups in this regard. Existence of different viewpoints between political and civil rights groups on the issue of right and obligation, and emergence of a dialogue among these groups in the society can give birth to a new discourse inside the country. This will also make the Iranian society ready to engage in interaction about this issue with international activists, so that, the existing gaps that currently seem to exist between international community and Iran, and have at times given rise to political tensions between the West and Iran, could be narrowed.

Of course, achieving this goal will take time, but it can be a good beginning for the initiation of dialogue between two different approaches to human rights issues and provide the needed ground for criticism and correction of the existing version of human rights, which has been accused by developing countries of being West-oriented.

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* Photo Credit: http://president.ir/
*These views represent those of the author and are not necessarily Iran Review’s viewpoints.