Statement from Human Rights Watch:

May 21,97--

Iran-Presidential Electrion & Obstacles to Free Expression

The May 23 presidential elections in Iran will be neither free nor fairin a meaningful sense, according to "Leaving Human Rights Behind":The Context of the Presidential Elections, released today by Human RightsWatch/Middle East.

While there is a real contest over who will succeed President Rafsanjani,the choice is between different factions within the closed circle of theclerical leadership. All candidates representing opposition viewpointshave been arbitrarily disqualified by the Council of Guardians. The Council,whose members are appointed by the leader of the Islamic Republic, performsa supervisory role over the elections that includes broad powers to barcandidates and annul voting results. Its decisions are not subject to appeal.

Human Rights Watch charges that the election is taking place in a repressiveatmosphere. In recent months, newspapers and magazines critical of governmentpolicies have been closed down. Some non-clerical parties have been preventedfrom addressing public gatherings. Vigilante groups, tolerated if not condonedby the government, break up opposition meetings and intimidate independentvoices.

Human Rights Watch also criticizes Iranian laws that restrict internationallyrecognized human rights and that bar women and members of religious minoritiesfrom serving as president.

The Human Rights Watch report specifies steps the government of Iranshould take to enable its citizens to participate more equally and fullyin the conduct of public affairs through free elections.

*** Copies of the report are available from the Publications Department,Human Rights Watch, 485 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10017-6104 for $3.60(domestic shipping) and $4.50 (international shipping). Visa and Mastercardaccepted.

Human Rights Watch/Middle East Human Rights Watch is a nongovernmentalorganization established in 1978 to monitor and promote the observanceof internationally recognized human rights in Africa, the Americas, Asia,the Middle East and among the signatories of the Helsinki accords. It issupported by contributions from private individuals and foundations worldwide.It accepts no government funds, directly or indirectly. Kenneth Roth isthe executive director and Robert L. Bernstein is the chair of the board.The Middle East division was established in 1989 to monitor and promotethe observance of internationally recognized human rights in the MiddleEast and North Africa. Eric Goldstein is the acting executive directorand Gary Sick is the chair of the advisory committee.

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