Media Statement by Deputy Minister Ebrahim Ismail Ebrahim during a Press Briefing held today, 12 May 2011 following Bilateral Engagements with Dr Mohammad Javad Larijani, Head of the Supreme Council for Human Rights of the Islamic Republic of Iran

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Media

The promotion of human rights is one of the pillars of South Africa’s domestic and foreign policy. Our history of Apartheid, discrimination and the violation of the most basic rights of the majority of our people have ingrained in us a strong sense that the rights of all peoples should not only be respected at all costs, but promoted in South Africa and across the world. In our own country, certain rights have been enshrined in our Constitution, but we believe that we should also play an active international role to promote basic human rights and to support the efforts of other Governments in this field.

It is in this context that I am pleased to welcome to South Africa Dr Mohammed Javad Larijani, the Head of the Supreme Council for Human Rights of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Dr Larijani arrived in South Africa yesterday and we had a detailed discussion about the human rights situation in Iran and we are grateful for the information that we had received from him on the efforts of the Iranian Government and his Council to address human rights issues in the Islamic Republic. We also used the opportunity to request clarity on a number of specific issues that had been of concern to us, including the following:

  • The use of the death penalty in Iran, which we believed to be excessive in its application.

  • The position of religious minorities, in particular the Baha’i, which are persecuted according to reports we had received.

  • The sentencing to death by stoning of Ms Sakineh Ashtiani. You may be aware that Minister Nkoana-Mashabane had written a letter to the former Iranian Foreign Minister, Mr Manouchehr Mottaki, about this case.

  • Collaboration between South Africa and Iran within multilateral structures, in particular the UN Human Rights Council.

Dr Larijani and his delegation provided detailed information on the above-mentioned issues and we had agreed to have annual consultations between our two countries on human rights issues. We will endeavour to schedule these interactions to coincide with the meetings of the Joint Commission. Minister Nkoana-Mashabane is scheduled to host her counterpart for the Eleventh Meeting of the Joint Commission later this year.

In addition to our engagement, Dr Larijani and his delegation have also met or will still meet before their departure the following:

  • Ms Lulama Xingwana, the Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities

  • Mr Max Sisulu, the Speaker of the National Assembly

  • Mr Andries Nel, the Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development

  • The South African Human Rights Commission

  • The Commission on Gender Equality

  • A visit to the Constitutional Court

  • A lecture at the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria

Thank you

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