Alex Massie

Does Obama Care About Human Rights in Iran?

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As readers know, in general terms I think the Obama administration has taken a fairly sensible, moderate approach towards Iran. Nevertheless, it's possible to take this too far. And this seems, on the face of it, to be one example of when carefulness crosses the line and becomes craven:

For the past five years, researchers in a modest office overlooking the New Haven green have carefully documented cases of assassination and torture of democracy activists in Iran. With more than $3 million in grants from the US State Department, they have pored over thousands of documents and Persian-language press reports and interviewed scores of witnesses and survivors to build dossiers on those they say are Iran’s most infamous human-rights abusers.

But just as the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center was ramping up to investigate abuses of protesters after this summer’s disputed presidential election, the group received word that - for the first time since it was formed - its federal funding request had been denied.

Formed by two exiled Iranians in 2004 with a $1 million grant from the State Department, the center...has published 12 reports in English and Persian about the forced confessions of detained bloggers and journalists, the 1988 massacre of thousands of political prisoners, and the Iranian government’s campaign to assassinate dissidents abroad. Although the State Department has been the group’s main source of funds, the Canadian government granted it money to research human-rights abuses in the wake of the disputed election this year.

Currently, the group is working to develop a list of all those who were arrested following the election and a list of those responsible for alleged abuses in prison. But without additional funding, the group will shut down in May when its funding runs out...

UPDATE: The Senate, thanks in part to John McCain and others, is trying to insist upon funding for this sort of work.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.