Column: Human Rights Dialogues

Published date01 March 2003
Date01 March 2003
Subject MatterColumn
*Dr. Ineke Boerefijn, Researcher, Associate Professor, Netherlands Institute of Human Rights
(SIM), Utrecht University, the Netherlands.
Views expressed in this column are of a striclty personal nature and are not necessarily shared
by the editors.
Netherlands Quarterly of Human Rights, Vol. 21/1, 3-6, 2003.
© Netherlands Institute of Human Rights (SIM). Printed in the Netherlands. 3
In December 2002 the first human rights dialogue between the EU and Iran
took place in Tehran. The dialogue consisted of two elements, a roundtable
between human rights experts and a dialogue at the political level between
representatives of the EU troika and Iran. The latter meeting took place in
closed session, i.e. in the absence of the independent experts. Government
representatives attended, and even chaired, the roundtable of human rights
experts. This format is quite similar to the one applied in the human rights
dialogue between the EU and China, that has taken place for some years now.
In the case of the EU – China dialogue, a network of eleven human rights
institutes (including SIM) has been established, the coordination of which is
in the hands of the Irish Centre for Human Rights of the National University
of Ireland in Galway. The main Chinese partner is the Chinese Academy of
Social Sciences (CASS) in Beijing, which coordinates the participation of other
Chinese institutions. The EU – Iran dialogue does not yet have such a network,
for the time being the Danish Centre for Human Rights acts as coordinator.
The roundtables with China take place twice a year, alternately in the EU and
China; it has been decided that the next round of the EU – Iran dialogue will
take place early in 2003 in Athens.
During the EU – Iran dialogue, experts from EU countries were present,
most of them from academic human rights centres and national human rights
institutions, as well as representatives of human rights NGOs, the judiciary and
a police training school. Their Iranian counterparts were academics, members
of parliament, members of the judiciary and NGO-representatives. The total
number of participants was approximately 50. On both days, a representative
of the religious authorities made a presentation on human rights and Islam.
The participants agreed that an open, fruitful and high-level dialogue had
taken place and was worth continuing. During the dialogue two issues were
discussed: discrimination and torture. Among the sub-issues under the
discrimination heading were women’s rights and rights of minorities and racial
discrimination and xenophobia. Presentations referred to international human
rights instruments and domestic legislation and practice and obstacles for the
implementation of international instruments in both EU countries and Iran.
On the prevention of torture, presentations and discussions related to
international (in particular the UN Convention Against Torture) and national
legal instruments (such as the Bill on Torture that the Iranian Parliament has

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