If there wasn’t a global human rights community, and Human Rights Watch in particular, we wouldn’t have the following bit of pressure on a beleaguered Iranian regime:

Iran’s decision to stage a “trial” of more than 100 critics of the recent presidential election, complete with broadcast “confessions” of several reformist leaders, underscores the arbitrary nature of their detention, Human Rights Watch said today. The trial began on August 1, 2009, with no notice to the defendants’ families or lawyers, and is scheduled to resume on August 6, the day after the inauguration of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for his second term.

At the August 1 hearing, Abdolreza Mohabbati, a deputy prosecutor for the general and revolutionary courts in Tehran, read a long indictment accusing the defendants of attempting a “velvet coup,” but not charging any of them with specific violations of Iranian law. The indictment, the full text of which has not been released by the authorities, named a number of prominent government critics, such as Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi, who up to now have not been detained.

“The prosecutor’s so-called indictment shows that that these accusations are political, through-and-through,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Since it’s crystal clear that the authorities can’t find a recognizable criminal offense to charge these people with, they should release them all immediately and unconditionally.”

That’s from a press release I got about half an hour ago. HRW sends out a lot of these. And it’s coming at a time when, for instance, the countryside of the clerical heartland is showing signs of dissatisfaction with Ahmadinejad. It’s precisely moments like these when you want a robust human rights community. No one can seriously believe that Human Rights Watch is an anti-Semitic organization. It’s just a ludicrous and irresponsible statement. HRW has an extremely low threshold for any form of human rights abuse. And in a world plagued by authoritarianism and injustice of many forms, degrading human dignity, you want an organization that will adopt an uncompromising position. Any government that finds itself on the wrong side of HRW has a lot of soul-searching to do.

Spencer Ackerman

Spencer Ackerman