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Last Updated: Monday, 7 June, 2004, 10:44 GMT 11:44 UK
Report slams Iran rights abuses
By Jim Muir
BBC correspondent in Tehran

Iranian President Mohammad Khatami
Hardliners have undermined many of President Khatami's reforms

The human rights situation in Iran is worse now than at any time since reformist Mohammad Khatami became president in 1997, a report says.

The international monitoring group Human Rights Watch accuses Iran's judiciary of abandoning its duty to administer justice fairly.

Instead, it is ordering the torture of detainees, the report says.

It says many of the abuses take place in illegal detention centres run by "parallel security bodies".

EU criticised

The European Union's dialogue with Iran on human rights issues has failed to produce any tangible results, Human Rights Watch says, urging the EU to exert more pressure on Tehran.

The EU's dialogue with Iran resumes in Tehran next week.

The report highlights the widespread use of indefinite periods of solitary confinement as a method used to break the will of detainees.

A recent report by Amnesty International was less scathing about the EU-Iran dialogue, but it too spoke of ongoing flagrant violations of Iranian and international law in the human rights arena.

It blamed the deadlock between Iranian reformists and hardliners for holding up progress.

But since the victory of the conservatives in controversial general elections in February, there have been signs of progress, at least superficially.

A law banning the use of torture has been approved and the judiciary chief has circulated instructions that proper procedures must be followed during arrests and detentions.

How real these changes are may be tested in the next month or so.

The fifth anniversary is coming up of major street disturbances triggered by an attack on a student dormitory in 1999. In recent years that anniversary has become an occasion for expressions of dissent which have been harshly suppressed.

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