Example of an Entente Cordiale The Euro-Iranian Human Rights by krl73146


									The Sixth Nordic Conference on Middle Eastern Studies
“Europe and the Middle East – An Entente Cordiale?”
The Middle East and Europe

          Example of an “Entente Cordiale”:
    The Euro-Iranian Human Rights Dialogue

Copenhagen, Denmark
Conference 8-10 October 2004

Anisseh Van Engeland-Nourai

An example of an “Entente Cordiale” between Europe and the Middle East: the Euro-
Iranian Human Rights Dialogue

By Anisseh Van Engeland-Nourai∗

        The European Union and the United States have opted for very different policies
regarding the Human Rights situation in Iran. While the United States opted for confrontation,
the Union has adopted a diplomatic dialogue. On January 29, 2002, President Georges W. Bush
declared in his State of the Union Speech:

       Our second goal is to prevent regimes that sponsor terror from threatening America or our
       friends and allies with weapons of mass destruction. Some of these regimes have been
       pretty quiet since September the 11th. But we know their true nature […] Iran
       aggressively pursues these weapons and exports terror, while an unelected few repress the
       Iranian people's hope for freedom.1

       Later, on July 12, 2002, the Bush administration issued a statement inciting the Iranian
civil society and the Iranian population to struggle for Human Rights and democracy.2 Europeans
have demonstrated their independence towards this US Human Rights foreign policy regarding
Iran as they refused a blunt conflict. That is why they launched the “Critical Dialogue” with Iran
in 1992. In 2002, the Union and Iran initiated a dialogue on Human Rights. In September of the
same year, the parties opened the first rounds of negotiations on the Human Rights clause
inserted in the Agreement on Cooperation and Trade.3 The path chosen by the European Union
has been quite successful as it had established a long-lasting dialogue with Iran that could be an
example of an “Entente Cordiale”. However the dialogue with Iran represents many challenges.

       The analysis of the dialogue between Iran and the European Union can teach us a lot about
the possibilities to set up an “Entente Cordiale” with Middle Eastern countries through the
channel of Human Rights. It is quite paradoxical to assert this as Human Rights are usually a tool

 Visiting Researcher at Harvard Law School, PhD candidate (Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris), LL.M 2004
Harvard Law School.
  President Georges W. Bush, State of the Nation Speech, Washington D.C, (January 29 2002), (transcript available
at www.whitehouse.gov)
  President Bush, Statement, Washington DC, (July 12, 2002), (transcript available at www.whitehouse.gov)
  Those Agreements are signed between the European Union members and third world countries

of discord. It seems however that a Human Rights dialogue might build bridges. The issue is to
know how this dialogue should be directed as to avoid any clash.

        I will firstly describe and explain the policy and diplomatic steps taken by the European
Union towards Iran. The second part of the paper will analyze the Human Rights talks between
both parties and how Human Rights are used to set up an “entente cordiale”. Eventually the third
part will present the flaws and failures of the dialogue.

I. Analysis of the Human Rights relationships between Iran and the European Union

A- Human Rights as a tool to isolate Iran

        When the revolution ended and the Islamic republic of Iran was set up, Western countries
felt uneasy with this new actor on the international scene that was calling for “Neither East Nor
West” and for the Islamic revolution to expand throughout the world.4 Consequently these
countries opted for a policy of isolation, and later for a policy of containment. In order to
legitimize this policy, Western countries used many tools, one of them being the Human Rights
tool. For example, they pointed at the compulsory wear of the veil to denounce women’s rights
violations. So Iran was presented as one of the largest Human Rights violators in the world.

        This stigmatization build on a bad Human Rights record is based on an International
relations theory: Human Rights have a very useful interest: it can be used to denounce a state and
condemn it publicly, legitimizing therefore a foreign policy of isolation.5

         The Iranian reaction to this isolation was to opt for cultural relativism.6 Already before
the revolution, Ayatollah Khomeyni had refused to qualify the Declaration of Human Rights as

   Definition available at World Encyclopedia, Concept of                 Neither East Nor West, (available at
  B.Badie, La Diplomatie des Droits de l’Homme : Entre Ethique et Volonté de Puissance, Paris, Fayard, L’espace
du Politique, 2002, p.8
  According to this theory, Human Rights should be interpreted at the light of culture, history, religion and other
factors. Iran is one of the countries actively advocating such an approach

universal and considered it was a tool of the rich world to submit the rest of the world.7
Consequently, the Islamic Republic of Iran officially pronounced international Human Rights
would not be the Iranian reference: the Islamic norm would be the legal, cultural and religious
reference to define Human Rights

          The new political order was […] in full accordance and harmony with the deepest moral
          and religious convictions of the people and therefore most representative of the
          traditional, cultural, moral and religious beliefs of Iranian society. It recognized no
          authority […] apart from Islamic law […] conventions, declarations and resolutions or
          decisions of international organizations, which were contrary to Islam, had no validity in
          the Islamic republic of Iran […] the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which
          represented secular understanding of the Judeo-Christian tradition, could not be
          implemented by Muslims and did not accord with the system of values recognized by the
          Islamic Republic of Iran; his country would therefore not hesitate to violate its

          Any Western attempt to denounce cultural relativism was perceived as a threat and an
intervention in internal affairs at that time. Any attempt to convert Iran to universal Human
Rights values was also a failure as Iran has gave to itself another legal reference: Islamic Human

          Therefore, the Euro-Iranian relationships crystallized on the issue of Human Rights and
the relations were tensed for long years because of the mutual decision to instrumentalize
fundamental values.

    B- An Iran- European Union dialogue in spite of multiple crisis

          The Union launched a “Critical Dialogue” in 1992. The aim of the dialogue was to keep a
channel of discussion opened about issues such as terrorism, Human rights and weapons of mass
destruction. Where the United States opted for the dual-containment, the European Union said it
had found a “balance of power”.9 Though the European Union shared the same worries as the
United States, it chose to address them differently. The “Critical Dialogue” demonstrated the

  Ayatollah Khomeyni, Islam and Revolution: Writings and Declarations of Imam Khomeyni, Translated and
Annotated by Hamid Halgar, Mizan press, Contemporary Islamic Thought, Persian Series, Berkeley, 1981.
  Said Rajaii Khorasani, Iranian ambassador to the United Nations, United Nations General Assembly, Thirty-ninth
Sessions, Third Committee, 65th meeting, 7december 1984, New York, A/C.3/39/SR.65.
  Communiqué, Foreign ministries, European Union Council , July 27, 2003, (available http://at ue.eu.int)

Union’s commitment “to pursue an active human rights policy as a core element of the newly
established European Common Foreign and Security Policy”.10 However, many Human Right
crises affected the dialogue:
        The first crisis arose at the end of the eighties when the author S. Rusdhie published the
Satanic Verses. The book was condemned by Ayatollah Khomeyni; he pronounced a fatwa
carrying a death sentence for the author.11 The fatwa openly violated fundamental rights. The
European ambassadors decided to leave Iran and came only a year after, with the crisis unsolved.
The crisis ended in 1998 when the Iranian parliament nullified the fatwa and the Iranian state
officially dissociated itself from the fatwa.

        The second crisis occurred under Khatami’s presidency and was very embarrassing for
both parties: Helmut Hofer was a German business man arrested in Iran and accused of having
extra-marital sexual relations with a Muslim woman. He was tried and condemned to death
sentence. The context was easier to deal with as at that time as M. Khatami was president but the
crisis had an impact on the Euro-Iranian relations. It postponed a visit of President Khatami to
Europe and talks about commercial agreements. The relations were in an impasse for two years
until the Supreme Court of Iran quashed the death penalty sentence and when H. Hofer agreed on
paying fines to be released.

        The year Hofer was released, in 1999, the trial of the 13 Jews from Shiraz created new
tensions. The right to a fair trial was not respected and for a while the Euro-Iranian relations
were under pressure. The United States, who was involved as the Jews arrested were accused of
spying for that country, denounced the “Critical Dialogue”. European officials responded by
saying they were concerned about the Human Rights situation in Iran and they reaffirmed the
European Union’s commitment to Human Rights as well as the role it played in the dialogue
with Iran.12

   Struwe Mathias, The Policy of « Critical Dialogue »: An Analysis of European Human Rights Policy Towards
Iran from 1992 to 1997, Middle East paper, No 60, University of Durham Centre for Middle Eastern and Islamic
Studies, November 1998.
   This is a legal opinion issued by a qualified Muslim scholar on matters of religious belief and practice.
   Debates at the European Parliament, April 14, 2000, Questions Session to the Council, , Question n° 75 by
Antonios Trakatellis (H-0309/00)

        The crises didn’t stop the dialogue but delayed it and sometimes caused interruptions.
After the “Critical Dialogue”, Europeans began to talk of a “Constructive Dialogue”. In 2003,
Franco Frattini became president of the European Union and he declared that the dialogue would
remain open.13 However nowadays opponents to the dialogue and even some European countries
say that there is only an Iranian monologue.14 It seems like the Euro-Iranian dialogue has now
reached a crossroads because of security and Human Right issues.

II. Human Rights talks between Iran and the European Union

        The European Convention for Human Rights is the most completed regional Human
Rights convention and is the one that is the most similar to international Human Rights standards
as laid down by the United Nations. Consequently Europeans used it as a legal tool, along with
the European charter on Human Rights, to promote Human Right abroad. The will to propagate
Human Rights is written in the fundamental texts of the European Union.15 Therefore the
European Union has opted for the Human Rights diplomacy. Thanks to this policy, the European
Union opened a dialogue on Human Rights with Iran in 2002. The same year, the European
Troika began the talks about an agreement on trade and cooperation with Iran which had a part
devoted to Human Rights.

     A- The Human Rights dialogue

     The aim of the Human Rights dialogue launched in 2002 is to help Iran to comply with
international standards. It is also a way to keep a channel of communication open. Iran is eager
to dialogue and it is perceived by the Europeans as a sign of normalization between both parties.
Human Rights have become the symbol of a “détente” between the Iran and the European Union,
a good start for an “Entente Cordiale”.

  Critical    Dialogue      Iran,  Europe   news,     (July   9,    2003),   (available   at     http://europa-eu-
   Europeans get though on Iran amid Frustration over Engagement, SpaceWar, (available at www.spacewar.com)
  Article 177 (2), Title XX of the CE Treaty and Article 11, Title V of the EU treaty, modified in Amsterdam in

     The dialogue is constant as there has been four sessions.
     The first meeting took place in December 2002 in a relative relax atmosphere as the
European Union had not initiated a resolution against Iran during the UN Human Rights
Commission and the UN had not renew the of the UN Special Representative on Iran. The
round-table gathered Iranian and European officials, academics from both sides as well as
number of international organizations issued from civil society. The participants discussed about
torture prevention and discrimination - notably against women and in the framework of the UN
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Iranian authorities then
announced they would invite the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture.16

     The second session in March 2003 was devoted to fair trial and the rule of law. The Working
Group made specific recommendations with regard to the immunity of counsel in pleading cases,
the active involvement of counsel from the outset of the procedure and during all stages, as well
as access to legal aid.17 Other topics such as women’s rights, minorities, racial discrimination,
and prevention of torture, fair trial and the rule of law were examined.

     The third session took place in October 2003. The issues were freedom of opinion and
expression as well as the right to development.18 Two questions were particularly emphasized:
parliamentary immunity and the freedom of the press. The European Council reaffirmed that the
human rights dialogue with Iran was one of the means by which the EU can work to improve the
human rights situation in the country. As The round-table, with civil society participation from
Iran and the EU, the focused this time on the themes of freedom of opinion and expression and
the right to development, all issues of concern to the EU regarding the human rights situation in
Iran were addressed during the subsequent officials-only talks.19

   FIDH, First Session of the Human Rights Dialogue: A limited Framework and Commitments to be Confirmed,
(December 19, 2002), (available at www.fid.org)
     FIDH, Assessment of the EU/Iran Human Rights Dialogue, December 2003, (available at
     FIDH, Assessment of the EU/Iran Human Rights Dialogue, December 2003, (available at
   European Council, The EU’s relations with Iran: Council conclusions on the third Human Rights meeting,
(October 2003), (available at http://europa.eu.int/comm/external_relations/iran/intro/gac.htm)

     The fourth session took place in June 2004 in Tehran. The issues on the agenda were
freedom of expression, prisoners of conscience, disappearances and universality of Human
Rights. The European Union delegation consisted of officials representing the Troika, as well as
representatives of the European Parliament secretariat, national Human Rights institutions, the
judiciary, academia, national experts and non-governmental organizations.20 They held talks
with representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iran, the judiciary, the Majles,
academics and NGOs. All participants took part in a Roundtable on the topics of the
Administration of Justice and International Cooperation to Promote Human Rights. This was
followed by a session restricted to officials in which other aspects of the Human Rights situation
in Iran were discussed. The EU stressed the importance of Iran adhering to the universally-
accepted standards of human rights set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the
two International Covenants on Human Rights. It underlined that the purpose of the dialogue
was to bring about an improvement in the human rights situation in Iran. This is indispensable
for the development of wider and eventually closer relations between the EU and Iran.21

     Non governmental organizations are less enthusiastic about the dialogue.22 It seems to them
that choosing such a field as Human Rights to set up a dialogue and an “Entente Cordiale” is not
a good idea. The Fédération Internationale des Droits de l’Homme expressed doubts about the
Dialogue: it seems that the Dialogue does not prevent Human Rights violations.23 Human Rights
Watch says it recognizes that the dialogue over Human Rights “will create significant new
opportunities to press for improvements in Human Rights.24” However the organization presses
for the enforcement of the EU Guidelines for Human Rights Dialogues Adopted by the European
Council in 2001.25 Besides the organization believes it is important for the European Union to

   According to the EU Guidelines for Human Rights Dialogues Adopted by the European Council in 2001, the
dialogue should involve independent activists, parliamentarians, lawyers, members of the civil society, NGOs and
intellectuals, (available at http://europa.eu.int/comm/external_relations/human_rights/doc/com01_252_en.pdf
   Fourth Session of EU-Iran Human Rights Dialogue held in Tehran, Press Release EU, (June 18, 2004), (available
at www.eu2004.ie)
   Human Rights Watch, Letter to EU Delegates Regarding the EU-Iran Dialogue, Brussels, (October 9, 2003),
(available at http://www.hrw.org/press/2003/10/eu-iran100903.htm)
   FIDH, EU-Iran Dialogue: An unconvincing Process, (October 13, 2003), (available at www.fidh.org)
   Human Rights Watch, EU-Iran Conference must set Human Rights Benchmarks: Backgrounder on Human Rights
Dialogue, New York, (December 14, 2002), (available at http://www.hrw.org/press/2002/12/euiran1213.htm)
   Available at http://europa.eu.int/comm/external_relations/human_rights/doc/com01_252_en.pdf

continue to sponsor resolution on Iran at the UN General Assembly so that the country remains
under pressure and does not relax because of the Human Rights dialogue.26

     B- The Human Rights clause in the Agreement on Cooperation and Trade

        In December 2002, the two parties opened the first round of negotiations for the signature
of an Agreement on Cooperation and Trade. This agreement has a Human Rights clause. I would
like to use the example of this clause to show that the policy of the European Union towards the
Middle East one is a comprehensive one and can be labeled as an “Entente Cordiale”.
Agreements on Cooperation and Trade have been signed with several Third World countries. It
is interesting to focus on the path chosen by the European Union to enter into an “Entente
Cordiale”: the economic coupled with a political and a Human Rights concern. Though this
method have been criticized by Human Rights activists, it seems that the policy adopted by the
European Union works.

        Since the nineties, the European Union has intensified its relations with different states
trough different types of agreements, most of them being commercial agreements. The
Agreement on Cooperation and Trade is an example. A Human Rights clause has always been
integrated in those agreements. It is a package: there is an economic part and a political part that
has a Human Rights clause. A 1995 decision of the European Council established guidelines as
to make the clause uniform and make certain it was compatible with the United Nations Human
Rights norms.27 This was done to avoid any cultural relativist claim and any temptation from the
third world countries to adapt the clause to the cultural or religious background. A non-execution
clause has been established in case one of the parties cannot realize its obligations. In case of
non-execution the two parties have to consult each other before taking any measure, except in
case of emergency. The content of the Human Rights clause is set up after negotiations with the
states. The clause has been inserted in all agreements since 1995.

   Human Rights Watch, EU-Iran Conference must set Human Rights Benchmarks: Backgrounder on Human Rights
Dialogue, New York, (December 14, 2002), (available at http://www.hrw.org/press/2002/12/euiran1213.htm)
   European Council, Guidelines on the Human Rights clauses in Agreement with Third World Countries , (available
at http://europa.eu.int/comm/external_relations/human_rights/intro)

        Those agreements on cooperation and trade give an opportunity to the European Union to
maintain its goals in terms of Human Rights and in economics terms. The economic agreement is
legitimized by a clause guaranteeing that Human Rights won’t be put aside in the process. It is
also the opportunity for the States Members to sign up agreement with states in a peculiar
political situation. As the European Union cannot sign a directly a political agreement with Iran
because of the US policy, it gives the opportunity for both parties to develop friendly relations in
the Human Rights field. It enriches the EU foreign policy. This European’s wish to have political
relations was emphasized in February 2003 when Chris Patten visited Iran, Turkey and Lebanon.
The European Union can say they have successfully established a dialogue where the United
States have failed to do so and it reinforces their position in the Middle East.

        The integration of a Human Rights clause in the Agreement on Cooperation and Trade
and the signature of such an agreement by Iran will only be favorable to a dialogue between the
European Union and the Middle East. Iran is a regional power and other countries might follow
its movement like the Mediterranean states, otherwise motivated by the Barcelona Conference.28

     C- Human Rights in Iran and the clause devoted to Human Rights in the Agreement on
        Cooperation and Trade discussed with Iran

     Since the election of M. Khatami in 1997, the Human Rights situation has improved. Few
legal reforms have actually been enforced even though there were many social changes. The
Iranian civil society has forced many of those changes, tired of waiting for the promised reforms.
There is still a lot to do regarding Human Rights in Iran but most of the organizations,
international or non governmental, have acknowledged these improvements. The Human Rights
record of Iran is at its best since 1945.29 Those Human Rights reports as much as the reports
issued by the organs of the European institutions have given an impetus to the relations between
Iran and the European Union. However the reality on the field is complex: the Human Rights

   Barcelona Declaration, adopted at the Euro-Mediterranean Conference, (November 27-28 1995), (available at
   Reports from 1998 until 2002, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, United Nations Human Rights
Commission, Special Rapporteur for the United Nations, and the Fédération Internationale des Droits de l’Homme

improvements are not enough and the internal balance is always threatened: the social safety
valve is constantly under pressure and if the fragile balance found by all the parties fails, it might
lead to social and political troubles.30

     The European Union trusted the Human Rights improvements in Iran when it started a
dialogue. Its Members relied on the internal and as well as other organizations reports. In 2002,
the European annual report on Human Rights in Iran was globally positive. It insisted on the
importance of inserting a Human Rights clause in any agreement that the parties might sign.
However, even though they were wholly satisfied, the European institutions recommended being
vigilant. It demonstrates that the European Union is not ready to sign an agreement at any cost
and that Human Rights do matter and is a real worry. The European Council recommended that
Iran should reform its legal system, its penitentiary system, minorities’ rights or women’s rights.
The clause is not only an argument to demonstrate to Human Rights organization that while
signing commercial agreement the European Union pretends to care for fundamental rights. It is
a serious European commitment to international values.

     The negotiations for the Human Rights clause in the Agreement on Cooperation and Trade
are led by the members of the Troika on the request of the European Council members. A first
meeting took place in December 1998: issues such as Human Rights and refugees were
mentioned. 31 Other like cooperation in Humanitarian disasters was put aside.32 At that time, the
European officials declared that there would be a deep Human Rights analysis later.

     2002 was an important year for both parties as the negotiations for the Agreement of Trade
and Cooperation were launched. In September 2002, the two parties agreed again on the insertion
of a Human Rights clause. Iranians requested a division of the commercial from the political and

   What I called the safety valve is the fragile balance that prevails when it comes to Human Rights in Iran: it is the
Iranian Human Rights paradox that law allows women to study but does not give them the right to travel alone. It is
the balance that exists between law and practice.
   Iran carries the heaviest international refugee weight: 1.9 millions refugees. In April 1998, Iran signed agreements
with NGOs and the UNHCR to take back home Afghan and Iraqi refugees.
   Humanitarian assistance is a part of the Human Rights clause but in the case of Iran it twill be modified: Iranians
have known to have the necessary materials, the experiences and many NGOs on the field to response humanitarian
needs. However an emergency assistance might be considered.

Human Rights negotiations but it was refused. The negotiations on the agreement started in
Brussels on December 12, 2002. Special committees were appointed to discuss specific Human
Rights issues: there was for example a meeting between the members of the European Parliament
and the Iranian Majles. Several issues were on the agenda such as discrimination, minorities and
torture. The major success of the first meeting was the Iranian invitation to UN committees
(Committee against torture and Committee on violence against women).

   The 2003 negotiations focused on the role of Iran as a regional power. The Middle Eastern
situation as well as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was also on the agenda. The two parties
spoke about the refugee situation and the humanitarian crisis. Issues such as fair trial and the
ratification of the two conventions were on the agenda. As the UN inspections had not taken
place yet, European officials insisted on the importance of their missions and the necessity of
such a visit for the well of the agreement. The non-introduction of a resolution against Iran in the
United Nations in made the meeting in 2003 easier to direct. The success of the meeting was the
acceptation by Iran to open its prisons to the UN inspectors during the year.

   The fourth round took place in June 2003. The main focus was on the dialogue of
civilizations, the ratification of the two conventions and freedom of speech.

   The content of the clause has not been established yet. We can however look at other Human
Rights clauses inserted in other agreements on cooperation and trade to see what we could expect
it to be. The Lomé Convention (or Cotonou Agreement) is a good example to see what could be
expected from Iran: There should be regular meetings among the experts of both parties in order
to insure a constant dialogue leading to mutual engagements. Those meetings should provide an
update on the Iranian Human Rights situation and the improvements. There should also be a
dialogue at the national level including experts, civil society and NGOs. The issues on the
agenda for such a dialogue would be torture, women’s rights, the reform of the prison system,
minorities’ rights. There is some flexibility as the dialogue could take place in a non-official
framework if necessary. The obligation would be to refer to international Human Rights values
only. The dialogue should also help to prevent situations in which Iran might be tempted to refer
to the non execution clause. The European Union would therefore keep a critical look.

III. The Human Rights Dialogue: Flaws, failures and critics.

       However the European policy towards Iran is not uniform. In 2002, the European states
didn’t reach an agreement on the introduction of a resolution to the UN Human Rights
Commission. Countries like Germany, The Netherlands or the United Kingdom wanted to
initiate such a resolution to condemn the Human Rights situation while other countries refused to
do as the Human Rights situation had changed. The latter were also worried that a resolution
would spoil months of pre-negotiations for an economic and commercial agreement. Eventually,
there was no resolution introduced as the states couldn’t agree.

   Even tough there was a meeting in June 2004, the Human Rights dialogue suffers from the
general degradation of the Human Rights situation in Iran. The AIEA crisis hardened the
European position as well. Dublin, chairing the European Union for now, is very strict and seems
very concerned with the renewal of Human Rights violations in Iran. Human Rights are not an
easy field to set up an “Entente Cordiale”.

       During the preliminary talks on the Agreement on Cooperation and Trade, some states
protested as they thought the Human Rights clause had to be more important due to the Iranian
record. The United Kingdom and Scandinavian countries were the principal defensors of a strong
Human Rights clause, even if it blocked other talks and negotiations. Other states like Italy or
Greece wanted an Agreement of Cooperation and Trade signed as soon as possible to be the first
ones to conquer the Iranian market. According to them, deeper talks about Human Rights would
only cripple the European Union and give way to the Iranian market to other states.

       Besides the States members have to deal with their public opinion: States that have
Iranian refugees on there are usually more sensitive to the Human Rights situation in Iran: Other
states that have privileged Iranians are motivated by the economic interest talks might bring and
think the Human Rights resolutions are an obstacle to the negotiations. Political groups have
tried to pressure governments to delay any agreement until the Iranian Human Rights record
would be cleared. Pro-Israelian organizations and opponent to the Iranian regime have been very
active. Manipulations occurred: Italian and British parliamentarians have circulated petitions that

were initiated by the terrorist group of Mudjaheddin of the People.33 Other state like Finland
have chosen to dialogue with Iran: Independents Iranians and Finnish experts on Human Rights
met twice a year in the two capitals. This dialogue is often shown as a positive attitude that could
make the Human Rights dialogue move forward.34 It is an example for the European Union

        Iranians are a bit worried about the Human Rights clause and its content. Iranian officials
expressed the wish it could respect Iranian legal and cultural specificities. However the 1995
Council decision clearly rejects any cultural relativist interpretation of the clause. On the other
hand, the European Union is aware that if there is no consensus on the content of the clause, the
agreement might not be signed.

        There is also the US pressure: the Bush administration turned the Human Rights issue
into a real crisis when he declared in 2002 the Axis of Evil.

        Besides all these tensions, there is a crisis: the negotiations for an Agreement on
Cooperation and Trade were suspended in December 20o3 because of the Human Rights
violations, the electoral crisis in 2004 and the AIEA issue. The Human Rights record for Iran is
quite negative since 2002.35 The European Union still wishes to sign an agreement with Iran as
demonstrated by Chris Patten’s speech in the European Parliament but the Union also want Iran
to take the Human Rights issue seriously.36 The Irish presidency’s program of action will not
stand any Human Rights violation. The meetings between European and Iranian officials have
turned into Human Rights forum where private cases of Human Rights violations are mentioned.
No date has been decided for the 5th round of the negotiations for the Agreement on Cooperation
and Trade. The European Union seems to have taken a tougher stance to Iran and especially
towards Iranian conservatives.

   Leftist Iranian movement that uses terrorist actions.
   « Remarks at the Estonian Chamber of Commerce », Speech of His Excellency the Ambassador of Iran in Estonia,
   See reports from FIDH, Human Rights Watch, Reporters Sans Frontières and Amnesty International
   Chris Patten, Commissaire aux relations extérieures, Réponse au Débat sur l’Iran, Parlement Européen, 12 février
2004, SPEECH/04/75

          Besides, in April 2002, Iran had been cleared from the globe’s worst human rights
offenders list.37 However the European Union was very critical of Iran during the 60th UN
Human Rights Commission.38


There are several issues at stake that might block any Human Rights negotiations:

      •   Political issue: the difficulty is the enforcement of universal Human Rights by a state that
          is not a democracy but an Islamic republic
      •   Legal issue: Iranian law is being caught up between tradition and modernity
      •   Cultural relativism versus universality of Human Rights
      •   Social issue: there is a necessity that the civil society should be aware the challenges.
      •   International issue: re-integration of Iran in the regional and international scene.

          The aim of the European Union is to challenge one of the main obstacles to its
normalization of relations with Iran: Human rights. The European Union is taking risks by
including Human Rights into the Agreement on Cooperation and Trade; it challenges the entire
dialogue process and talks it had with Iran since then. Iran is also taking risks: it might sign up
for a Human Rights clause that could be very difficult to respect without losing the Iranian
identity. However the Iranian officials are aware of the importance of the success of the
negotiations on the Agreement of Cooperation and Trade. The clause devoted to Human Rights
in the agreement is the symbol of the complex relationship between the European Union and
Iran. The Human Rights clause is not easy to negotiate. The Iranian government has to make a
lot of concession. Conservatives will do anything to stop the conclusion of an agreement that
would include a Human Rights clause. The content of the text might end up being empty because
both parties could not agree on real reforms and the Iranian factions would not let go of their

     59th UN Human Rights Commission, 2002
     See UN Human Rights reports at www.unhchr.ch


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