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Iran Responds to Damning Human Rights Report; U.N.'s Warning to Ukraine Rebels; Imagine a World

Aired October 29, 2014 - 15:00:00   ET



MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN HOST (voice-over): Hello, everyone. Tonight on the program, in the spotlight, Iran's record on human rights. A top official

responding to damning new allegations live on the program.

Also ahead, Russia's vow.


ANDREY KELIN, RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR TO OSCE: Russia will never stop supplying gas to Ukraine because we have a lot of people from Ukraine in Russia and

it is impossible that we let Ukrainian people freeze.


HOLMES: That pledge as tensions between Moscow and Kiev remain highly volatile.


HOLMES: Good evening, everyone, welcome to the program. I'm Michael Holmes, in for Christiane today.

Well, tonight, Iran responds to damning new allegations about its human rights record. Since Hassan Rouhani became president over a year ago, Iran

has been seen as a country that is undergoing change, opening up a little to the world.

In at least one crucial respect it is not. According to a new report by the United Nations, there has been a marked increase in the number of

executions in Iran. The report says that death is acceptable punishment in Iran for everything from adultery to alcoholism. Activists expressing

outrage this Saturday as a 26-year-old woman, Reyhaneh Jabbari, was hanged.

She admitted killing a man but said it was in self-defense after he made sexual advances. The U.N. also suggests she may have been coerced for


The country's also detained at least 35 journalists, including Jason Rezaian, who had been held without public charge since July.

Tonight Iran responding to these allegations. Mohammad Javad Larijani is the Iranian human rights chief and he joins me now from the seat of the

U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Well, the report says that between July 13 and June 14, at least 852 people were executed, Mr. Larijani. Iran has a death sentence for adultery, for

alcoholism. There is the alleged execution of juveniles.

What's your reaction to this report?

MOHAMMAD JAVAD LARIJANI, IRANIAN HUMAN RIGHTS CHIEF: (Speaking foreign language). This report is not authentic neither well-founded. Most of the

execution in Iran, yes, we do have execution, but mostly it goes for the narcotic crimes, which in fact the whole world has benefited from a war

with narcotic, including United States and others where some communities.

So the Western world should appreciate Iran's unilateral unresenting (sic) war with narcotic crimes.

HOLMES: It doesn't just execute people for that, though. It executes people for many other things. As we said, adultery is on the books.

LARIJANI: No, this is not --

HOLMES: Adultery is not on the books?

LARIJANI: No, you should count. No, please tell me a single instance of execution on adultery in this year. You cannot show anyone of that.

HOLMES: Is it not on the books?

LARIJANI: -- for alcoholic, this -- well, look, are you talking about applying the law? Are you talking about the cases which has been executed?

If you talk about the book, adultery receives capital punishment in italia (ph) law according to the book, but never done. So you said just a minute

ago that more than 200 people has been executed this year.

I'm saying that most of them, almost more than 90 percent them, are coming from the narcotic crimes. No single one, no single one about adultery,


HOLMES: Let's talk about one that was not about drugs, the case of Reyhaneh Jabbari, hanged for killing a man. She says to protect herself

from a sexual assault. The sentence, and it being carried out through a lot of criticism worldwide and suspicion over the evidence considered and

crucially not considered.

Are you comfortable with how that case was handled?

Or is the world being unfair in its criticism?

LARIJANI: Well, the judgment of the Western countries is definitely not fair. Neither true and neither well-founded. You know, this is a case

that a girl was accused of capital -- of murder, of murdering a person, called blood murder. So the whole court procedure took seven years, from

one court to another. Numerous judges has presided over this court.

Then definitely we are not happy that a person to kill another one or to be -- to be executed. But you know that the positive of the government was to

solicit forgiveness from the first degree families. Unfortunately, the campaign which was launch by Western media and politicians definitely

exploited the atmosphere of soliciting forgiveness from the first degree families.

I think what Iran has did, it was quite lawful. It was due justice processes. So nothing was wrong. No single country in the world has --

was able to point out where we went wrong, you know, justice system, just they are condemning.


HOLMES: Well, part of the report was that there was evidence that was not considered, such as a drug being in a glass of orange juice, her claim that

she was -- a confession was coerced out of her. There was a lot of specifics in that case --

LARIJANI: Well, I know, I know. We are not in a position to say that she was right or not. All of these issues has been raised in the court by

herself, by her lawyers. It was heard over seven years, deliberation. It was not an overnight decision by the court.

So they cannot convince the judges, not only one judge, judges after judges, panels of five judges, seven judges, three judges. So I think

later on all the judges came up with the conclusion that she intentionally committed this murder and there was not a case of self-defense.

So this was a judgment.


HOLMES: -- give you the chance to respond to it.

So can we talk about the jailing of journalists, which is also an issue here? There is the case of Jason Rezaian and who we mentioned, who's being

held without charge since July, which is longer than the law allows in Iran and granted, plenty of other countries hold people without charge for long

periods. The U.S. at Guantanamo Bay, famously; Israel with its administrative detentions of Palestinians. But do you accept that the

jailing of journalists like Rezaian and holding them without charge for this length of time puts Iran in a bad light?

LARIJANI: Well, we are very sorry that these journalists came to Iran, a journalist but unfortunately they've been involved with activities which

our security people consider those activities definitely beyond journalism.

Our position is not to pass the judgment. There are plenty of opportunity to defend themselves. Definitely the charge has been raised against them.

Their detention is according to the law with the order of the judges. But anyhow, we hope that they --

HOLMES: There have been no charges levied against Mr. Rezaian at all, and that's one of the main criticisms here. It's past the 90-day maximum

allowed, even under Iranian law.

LARIJANI: No, there were definitely charges against them. So the -- we hope that they can defend themselves well and they come out living clean.

This is --


HOLMES: -- saying charges have been laid, what are those charges?

LARIJANI: Well, as I said, the charges has been raised to them by the security officials as involving activities beyond the sphere of journalism.

HOLMES: You're talking about accusations or charges? Because it said that he has not been charged with anything.

LARIJANI: No, you know that accusations, well, it is considered substantial and capable of being prosecuted by law, it becomes charges. So

it was not pure accusations. No, the prosecutor considered them accusations that could be, that could be well founded.

So during the court process, it will be definitely explained and determined whether they are serious charges or that could be dropped.

They will have ample opportunity to defend themselves.

HOLMES: You're saying there are charges; there are others who support him say there are not. I do want to get through some other stuff. This report

which is pretty damning, it comes from a man that you have criticized, U.N. special rapporteur on human rights, Ahmed Shaheed. You've called him a

media actor. He says he's banned from the country. He hasn't been here since he was appointed in June 2011.

He also says that a U.N. special rapporteur has not been allowed into Iran since 2005.

Why is that?

LARIJANI: Well, you know, we are very much open to reporting. And we are very much cooperating with different mechanisms of supervision of the human

rights, especially the UPR system mechanism, which recently has been introduced.

We are very much active in this engagement with the reporting and cooperation with the UPR system of reporting. But it for the first time

that countries that were always used to sit on the bench of arbitrator and judge others, not themselves, United States, Britain, France and other

European countries, were obliged to sit on the table and be judged by the others on the human rights records.

So we don't have any difficulty with reporting mechanism. Special rapporteurs, after revolution, came to Iran and some of them were not

invited and welcome to Iran. Semantic (ph) rapporteurs came to Iran, about six, seven of them and later on this process was stopped.

The reason is simple: we expect -- we do not expect from the rapporteurs to come out the clapping for Iran or to prepare reports which only glorifies

Iran. We want a rapporteur which stands by the fact, have a well objective methodology, transparent assessment, being against us or for us doesn't


Unfortunately, the honorable special rapporteurs for Iran from the minute that he got the mandate, he was moving from one TV station to another and

making claims against Iran. So at least he should keep the neutrality on the face of it. We don't care about what is going on in his heart. In

practice he should dare to the principle of neutrality.


LARIJANI: So, unfortunately.

HOLMES: Yes, no, I was just going to say --

LARIJANI: -- he labels.

HOLMES: -- finish your point, sir.

LARIJANI: -- yes. Well, he -- for example, he labels terrorist people who was caught during the terrorist activity as human rights defender. So how

we can authenticate his activity? These are serious doubts we have in his work professionally, not personally. We do not have anything personal

against him.

HOLMES: Yes, which he rejects. Of course, it is a delicate time for Iran and its international image with those nuclear talks coming up, the

international deadline set for November 24 on that. But we'll have to leave it there.

Mohammad Javad Larijani, the Iranian human rights chief, thanks so much for joining us there in Geneva. Appreciate your time.

All right. We're going to turn to Moscow next, tensions high between Russia and Ukraine over ongoing separatist violence and also price of gas.

Watch hope for a thaw in relations there. That's coming up.




HOLMES: Welcome back to the program, everyone. The U.N. secretary- general, Ban Ki-moon says plans by Ukrainian separatist rebels to hold elections this weekend seriously undermined last month's peace deal. There

have been many violations since this shaky truce came into effect and the country remains even now volatile.

Parliamentary elections were held in Ukraine on Sunday, although pro- Western parties did gain the majority of the vote, pretty much as expected. The vote out -- voter turnout, however, was extremely low -- predictably --

in the pro-Russian east of the country, in some places because the separatists just wouldn't allow polling places to open.

Moscow blamed for stoking tensions there, arming the rebels, supporting the separatists' elections as well and in more direct ways, it is alleged.

Russia's representative to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe is Andrey Kelin. He spoke to me earlier from Vienna.


HOLMES: Andrey Kelin, thanks so much for your time.

First of all, a couple of elections to discuss. Let's start with Ukraine's election, which saw the election of a government that is far more Europe

leaning than Russia leaning.

KELIN: Good day. Interesting idea, of course. I will try to consider it from a different perspective.

We think that elections are in Ukraine have taken place, although not everywhere, not every part of Ukraine has took part in the elections.

There were some omissions and some violations. It has been a consultation also by the national observers for OSCE as well as for there. Although

they did not influence seriously the results and we are -- I think that we are going to recognize the outcome when all calculations are -- will be


HOLMES: Russia's foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, says that the elections in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions will be "important," in his words, to

legitimize the authorities there. Russia's open support for these rebel elections, if you like, are being seen as an interference in Ukraine's

domestic affairs.

KELIN: Well, I'm not sure that this is interference in the domestic Ukrainian affairs. Elections are in Donbas, in what you are saying is

Donetsk and Luhansk, a republic, it's an important position in the Minsk agreements, Minsk memorandum. Elections should be held in any way.

Minsk agreements stipulate that first there should be a law on the special status of Donbas as you say correctly.

So this law -- certain regions are not Donbas entirely, but certain regions in Donbas, OK. This law has been passed by the whole Narada and this law

has been approved by President Poroshenko. But it has a very serious deficiency. It does not stipulate which regions are of the area of

application of this law.

It is said that in the law that this will be determined by the Ukrainian parliament, by the whole Narada, but nothing is said when and how it will

be determined.

HOLMES: But the point is that the Minsk accord does say that the elections should be held in accordance with Ukrainian law. That's not happening.

That does not back these elections. They don't think that they should be held.

But doesn't the fact that they're being held and Russia supporting them being held puts the whole agreement at risk, especially since Kiev has

already agreed to limited self-rule for these areas?

KELIN: No. As I explained, well, it is hard to say.

Do we have a legal basis for that or not? I said that the law is only half-baked. So it not a full-scale exam. It is -- so we just probably a

technical explanation. It is for us, for you and me, it will be technical. But for people who are leading in this area, well, it is very pertaining, I

should say. So they do not feel that they are under this law. A lot depends on the point of view.

Do you dramatize it, over-dramatize it?

Or you calmly just take up results from these elections and you start national dialogue?

Because national dialogue is a core of everything here. It is a key for resolution of all the problems. Kiev authorities need to talk to the

people in Luhansk and Donetsk and to speak about the problems and to settle the disagreements.

This is 100 percent necessity.

HOLMES: Let's talk about gas for the moment, one major weapon Russia has, of course, is gas supplies to Ukraine, talks going on at the moment to

resolve payment issues.

But is there a chance of Russia will keep gas from Ukraine with temperatures there already getting down to zero?

KELIN: What I can absolutely guarantee that Russia will never stop supplying gas to Ukraine because we have a lot of people from Ukraine in

Russia and it is impossible that we let Ukrainian people freeze. This is out of the question.

On the other hand, we cannot always supply gas for Ukrainians, to Ukraine, which happened in the past. Ukraine still did not paid, for instance, last

three months or over last year for it. And we expected this payment.

HOLMES: Right. And let's talk briefly about sanctions and the effect they're having on the Russian economy and they certainly are having an

impact on the Russian economy.

But are they having any political effect at the Kremlin?

KELIN: No. In terms of changing our policy talks, what is happening over there, I don't think so. I do not see any indication of that -- if there

is a influence, or even a strong influence or a minor influence over there, because we need to resolve this question.

We need to resolve the issue of not only of Ukraine but also larger issue. It is a relationship between Russia and European Union, Russia and NATO,

this is what it at stake.

As for the effect on the economy, we feel some difficulties, that is true.

But I will say that some difficulties are also felt by a number of European countries as well, like Poland and Baltic countries and the others. But

that is absolutely clear. And the economy does not flourish in Europe, either. So this is a terrible event. And the best would be, of course, to

abandon sanctions.

HOLMES: So when it comes to East-West relations these days, and they haven't been this bad in a very, very long time, do you reject that Russia

has played any role in the state of those affairs, given its military operations and assistance to rebels in Ukraine, what happened in Crimea and

these other instances?

Do you think that countries like the Baltic States and Poland and others, they've got a bit of a right to be a bit nervous about you guys, no?

KELIN: Nervousness is a bad thing in any case.

Michael, all these things are not very much combined. They're not very much linked. If you take different look in Crimea, so if I'm not mistaken,

87 percent of the population in Crimea has taken part in voting and 92 percent of these have voted in favor of joining -- of independence --

HOLMES: Those figures are very much disputed, though, Mr. Kelin. They are -- I was there for the referendum. A lot of people were very frightened to

even go and vote, let alone show a Ukrainian flag.

I mean, it wasn't the freest and fairest of elections.

KELIN: Have you been in Crimea during the referendum?

HOLMES: I was there for the referendum.

KELIN: Oh, you were there for the referendum?

Very interesting.

HOLMES: I was.

KELIN: I couldn't have gone. I -- well, that is -- might be disputable. I do not know. It is only international observers. I know a couple of

parliamentarians in Austria who were over there. They told me differently, that it was a well done and the results were -- are reflecting the moods

over there.

But anyway, army was not used and there is no necessity because we have a large contingent over there or the bilateral agreement with Ukrainians that

is in Sebastopol. So it not -- that was not the major factor for the elections.

HOLMES: Andrey Kelin, we'll have to leave it there. Russia's representative to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

Hopefully the frost will lift at some point in the future. Thanks for your time today.

KELIN: Good. Thank you. Thank you.


HOLMES: And when we come back here on the program, Zambia has a new interim president. But what did George W. Bush think of him when they

first met? Find out, next.




HOLMES: And finally tonight, imagine a world where a remnant of the colonial powers becomes an example of a progressive future perhaps. The

landlocked nation of Zambia made history today when its vice president became the first white man to lead a sub-Saharan African state in 20 years

and actually the first white man to lead a truly democratic African nation in, well, forever.

The top job fell to Guy Scott after the president, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital on Tuesday at age 77. Sata chose Scott as his right-hand

man when he came to power in 2011.

Guy Scott was born in Livingston in Zambia. He is of Anglo-Scottish descent. Now the 70-year old takes charge of the country for the next 90

days until new elections are held and few Zambians seem concerned by the change in guard.

In fact back when he was elected vice president, Scott said Zambians, quote, "shrugged off his whiteness as barely worth a mention," though it

did confuse former U.S. President George W. Bush when he passed through Zambia a few years ago.

Scott told the media, quote, "When they introduced me as vice president, he thought they were kidding."

That is our program for tonight. Thank you for watching. I'm Michael Holmes. Goodbye from CNN Center for now.