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Death is 'Ayatollah’s trade'

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The US and EU always look for a common ground of interests towards Iran, in order to negotiate with mullahs. The nuclear programme and Iran’s interference in the region have been two main issues over recent decades. However, every deal with the Iranian regime, JCPOA on the top of them, has failed to live long because of the irresponsible behavior of the Iranian regime. In fact, Iran fails to follow international norms and regulations, writes Ali Bagheri.

But, why does Iran fail to stay in the framework of the international community despite a strong enthusiasm by EU and US towards Iran? The missed factor in EU and US negotiations with Iran is the massive human rights violation by mullahs. All international commitments of the Iranian regime are valid until they can freely oppress the Iranian people.

Therefore, the crisis explodes when the people of Iran organizes nationwide uprisings such as in November 2019, when the Iranian regime had to kill 1500 peaceful protesters in streets. Uprisings in Iran which all is some how conducted to regime change is the moment that makes an international solidarity with Iranians against the clerics in Tehran. This is simply because EU countries same as U.S. got to this conclusion that death is the trade that the Ayatollah wants.

First Curtain: Iranian Protesters since 2017 uprising are under torture and Execution

On 2 September 2020, Amnesty International released a report about massive human rights violations against detainees of 2019 uprising in Iran. The report, entitled Iran: Trampling Humanity – Mass arrests, Disappearances and Torture Since Iran’s 2019 November Protests sheds lights on the unhuman behavior of guards in Iran towards detainees in Iran. Tortures such as: Electric chair, sexual violence against male detainees, blindfolded, flogging, beating with rubber hosepipes, knives, batons and cables, suspended or forced into holding painful stress positions for prolonged periods, deprived of sufficient food and potable water, placed in prolonged solitary confinement, and denied medical care for injuries sustained during the protests or as a result of torture are mentioned in amnesty report that reminds dark age prisons in Europe. Moreover, minorities (11-17) were tortured too.

Torture was used to punish, intimidate and humiliate detainees and also force them to confess against themselves.

The report raised international concerns about human rights violations in Iran. Swedish Foreign Affairs Minister Ann Linde expressed her concerns in a tweet stating “Today’s report by Amnesty paints a grim picture of serious human rights violations in Iran following the 2019 protests.” Amnesty Belgium, USA, Spain and Austria condemned the Iranian regime and expressed their concerns regarding the torture in Iran’s prisons.

Unfortunately, the story does not end here. The Iranian regime has a horrible record of execution and force disappearance of dissident prisoners. Recently, Navid Afkari who is an Iranian athlete was sentenced to death for his participation in peaceful protests in 2018 uprisings in Shiraz. This decree received a large opposition in Iran and around the world. Some of the Iranian athletes and many famous athletes from Dana White, the UFC president to wrestlers from all around the world condemned this decree.

In an initiative by Iranian National Sports Champions, members of the National Council of Resistance (NCRI) of Iran 48 Iranian sports champions write to the UN Secretary-General, the International Olympic Committee President demanding their urgent intervention to stop the execution of wrestling champion Navid Afkari.

Second Curtain: Human rights violations history as long as the establishment of Islamic Republic including the tragic 1988 massacre

The tragic stories of Navid and all other detainees are not new phenomena in Iran. In fact, the new wave of execution and torture in Iran is the continuation of early martyrs in Iran after 1979 anti-monarchy revolution. This list can be continued to the early days of the establishment of Islamic Republic in Iran. The main question in front of Iranians is not how many people has been tortured or executed by the Iranian regime anymore. The question is who has left? From Writers, to intellectuals, to human rights activists, personalities, to every member of the opposition is in the Iranian regime’s death list.

When the Iranian regime is in a crippling situation, Ayatollah does not hesitate to exterminate whom are not in his favor. Let’s back to 1988. The Iranian regime was in a critical situation. Iran could not continue the war with Iraq anymore. Regime should respond to the society about the people who has been killed in a war that could end 7 years ago. Ayatollah chose the easy way.

More than 30,000 political prisoners, mostly MEK/PMOI supporters, were executed in a few months. They were buried in mass graves and their families were kept uninformed until today. Experts believe brining Massacre 1988 issue on UN General Assembly and keeping the Iranian regime accountable for this crime is the key step to bring criminals to justice. Many of present Iranian officials including present head of judiciary and the minister of Justice have been among death committee members who must be kept accountable.

Last curtain: Coronavirus a silent death in Iranian regime agenda

The Iranian regime recognizes no limits to kill activists, protesters, and opposition members inside and outside the country. However, the Iranian regime does not need opposition to kill and torture them. This regime cannot behave as a normal state, because in its nature it is against the people and civilized society. Therefore, everything can be used as a mean to suppress the people and disperse the society. According to MEK, Iranian opposition group, almost 100,000 have died because of Coronavirus. Many experts inside and outside the country believe the official numbers in Iran is largely underestimated. In order to approximate the epidemic scope in Iran, the key points from Iranian regime officials must be excluded, e.g. Hassan Rouhani, the president of Islamic Republic, in his speech during the Coronavirus task force committee stated that around 25-30 million of Iranians are contaminated.

The coronavirus crisis in Iran should not be compared with the situation in other countries. In Iran, the regime and the virus are on one side and the people are on the other side. In March, Khamenei openly said that he sought to create an opportunity and a blessing out of the coronavirus crisis. He and his president, Hassan Rouhani, pursued the strategy of colossal human fatalities as a barrier against the threat of an uprising and eventual overthrow and to pacify and demoralize the Iranian society, rendering it hopeless and paralyzed.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Islamic republic, has not participated in any public meeting in the past 6 months. The president of Iran always gives a speech in the first day of the school year. This year, although the schools has started as usual, but the president sent a message from his office claiming everything is normal. In some schools, ambulances were seen taking sick students to hospitals.

As it can be seen above, any crisis for the Iranian regime is paid back with blood. When they fail to continue the war, they massacre political prisoners. When they fail to solve economic problems, they massacre people in streets. When they fail to retaliate the elimination of Qassim Soleimani, they shoot down a civilian airliner with 176 innocent passengers.

Finally, when they feel a set of domestic and international crisis that can impact their sovereignty, they leave people unprotected against Coronavirus and by adopting confusing policies bring death to more and more people. In conclusion, death is Ayatollah’s trade and the only task that Ayatollah can accomplish. On the other hand, last solution to end this trade is on the people of Iran to get organized, uprise, and overthrow the regime by themselves and their resistance. When this moment arrives, the international community will support. The moment that Iranians stand, the world will stand with them.

Ali Bagheri PhD is an energy engineer,  from the University of Mons. He is an Iranian activist and an advocate for human rights and democracy in Iran.  

Consumer protection

How the EU aims to boost consumer protection

EU Reporter Correspondent

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Find out how the EU aims to boost consumer protection and adapt it to new challenges such as the green transition and the digital transformation. Society 

As the economy becomes more global and digital, the EU is looking at new ways to protect consumers. During the May plenary, MEPs will debate the digital future of Europe. The report focuses on removing barriers to the functioning of the digital single market and improving the use of articial intelligence for consumers.

Infographic illustration on consumer protection in the European Union
Reinforcing consumer protection  

New consumer agenda

Parliament is also working on the new consumer agenda strategy for 2020-2025, focusing on five areas: green transition, digital transformation, effective enforcement of consumer rights, specific needs of certain consumer groups and international cooperation.

Making it easier to consume sustainably

The 2050 climate neutrality goal is a priority for the EU and consumer issues have a role to play - through sustainable consumption and the circular economy.

Infographic illustration on Europeans support tackling climate change
Sustainable consumption  

In November 2020, MEPs adopted a report on a sustainable single market calling on the European Commission to establish a so-called right to repair to make repairs systematic, cost efficient and attractive. Members also called for labelling the lifespan of products as well as measures to promote a culture of reuse, including guarantees on pre-owned goods.

They also want measures against purposefully designing products in a way that makes them obsolete after a certain time and reiterated demands for a common charger.

The Commission is working on right to repair rules for electronics and legislation on the environmental footprint of products to enable consumers to compare.

The review of the Sale of Goods Directive, planned for 2022, will look into whether the current two-year legal guarantee could be extended for new and pre-owned goods.

In September 2020, the Commission launched the sustainable products initiative, under the new Circular Economy Action Plan. It aims to make products fit for a climate-neutral, resource-efficient and circular economy while reducing waste. It will also address the presence of harmful chemicals in products such as electronics and ICT equipment, textiles and furniture.

Making the digital transformation safe for consumers

The digital transformation is dramatically changing our lives, including how we shop. To help EU consumer rules catch up, in December 2020 the Commission proposed a new Digital Services Act, a set of rules to improve consumer safety across online platforms in the EU, including online marketplaces.

MEPs want consumers to be equally safe when shopping online or offline and want platforms such as eBay and Amazon to step up efforts to tackle traders selling fake or unsafe products and to stop fraudulent companies using their services.

MEPs also proposed rules to protect users from harmful and illegal content online while safeguarding freedom of speech and called for new rules on online advertising giving users more control.

Given the impact of artificial Intelligence, the EU is preparing rules to manage its opportunities and threats. Parliament has set up a special committee and emphasises the need for human centric legislation. The Parliament has proposed a civil liability regime for artificial intelligence that establishes who is responsible when AI systems cause harm or damage.

Strengthening the enforcement of consumer rights

EU countries are responsible for enforcing consumer rights, but the EU has a coordinating and supporting role. Among the rules it has put in place are the directive on a better enforcement and modernisation of consumer law and rules on collective redress.

Addressing specific consumer needs

Vulnerable consumers such as children, elderly people or people living with disabilities, as well as people in financial difficulties or consumers with limited access to the internet need specific safeguards. In the new consumer agenda, the Commission plans to focus on problems with internet accessibility, financially vulnerable consumers and products for children.

The Commission’s plans include more offline advice for consumers with no internet access as well as funding to improve the availability and quality of debt advice services for people in financial difficulties.

Because children are particularly vulnerable to harmful advertising, Parliament has approved stricter rules for audiovisual media services for audiovisual media services.

Guaranteeing the safety of products sold in the EU

Consumers often purchase goods manufactured outside the EU. According to the Commission, purchases from sellers outside the EU increased from 17% in 2014 to 27% in 2019 and the new consumer agenda highlights the need for international cooperation to ensure consumer protection. China was the largest supplier of goods to the EU in 2020, so the Commission will work on an action plan with them in 2021 to increase the safety of products sold online.

In November 2020, Parliament passed a resolution calling for greater efforts to ensure that all products sold in the EU are safe, whether manufactured within or outside the EU or are sold online or offline.

Next steps

Parliament’s internal market and consumer protection committee is working on the Commission proposal for the new consumer agenda. MEPs are expected to vote on it in September.

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coronavirus

Coronavirus: Health Security Committee updates the common list of COVID-19 rapid antigen tests

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The Health Security Committee (HSC) has agreed to update the common list of COVID-19 rapid antigen tests (RATs), including those whose results are mutually recognised by EU member states for public health measures. Following the update, 83 RATs are now included in the common list, of which the results of 35 tests are being mutually recognised. Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Stella Kyriakides, said: “Rapid antigen tests play a crucial role to slow down the spread of COVID-19. Diagnostics are a central element for member states in their overall response to the pandemic. Having a wider list of recognised rapid antigen tests will also make it easier for citizens to benefit from Digital Green Certificates and to facilitate safe free movement inside the EU in the coming months.”

In addition, the Commission and the Joint Research Centre have agreed on a new procedure for updating the list of common and mutually recognised RATs in the future. From today onwards, RATs manufacturers will be able to submit data and information for certain tests that meet the criteria agreed by the Council on 21 January 2021. This includes only those rapid tests that are being carried out by a trained health professional or other trained operator and excludes rapid antigen self-tests.  Moreover, as part of the new procedure, the HSC is setting up a technical working group of national experts to review the data submitted by countries and manufacturers and to propose updates to the HSC.

They will also work with the JRC and the ECDC on a common procedure for carrying out independent validation studies to assess the clinical performance of RATs. The updated common list of COVID-19 RATs is available here. Manufacturers can submit data on rapid antigen tests available on the market here. The Council Recommendation on a common framework for the use and validation of RATs and the mutual recognition of COVID-19 test results in the EU can be found here.

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Mohsen Rezaee emerges as the West's man on the ground

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As nuclear talks in Vienna stall, negotiators are keeping a close eye on Iran’s upcoming presidential elections, the outcome of which could be key to breaking the current deadlock, writes Yanis Radulović.

With a fourth round of talks set to resume in Vienna this week, pressure is mounting on high-ranking European negotiators to reach an accord that bridges the geopolitical chasm between Washington and Tehran and brings Iran back into compliance with the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

A historic non-proliferation agreement and widely regarded as one of the Obama administration’s premier foreign policy achievements, the JCPOA set out a framework to curtail Iran’s nuclear breakout time and established formal steps for capping the enrichment of fissile material, scheduling transparent atomic facility inspections, and dismantling excess centrifuge installations. In return for sustained compliance with this framework, the U.S. and other major world powers agreed to a gradual lifting of nuclear-related sanctions on Iran.

When the US withdrew from this landmark agreement in 2018, the European co-signatories of Germany, France, and the UK stepped up to keep the deal alive. However, European relations in the region quickly became strained by the revival of Washington’s “maximum pressure campaign” on Iran, a campaign which aimed to strangle the Iranian economy via unilateral sanctions and escalatory retaliatory actions.

Unsurprisingly, Washington’s pivot to maximum pressure has placed major European powers in a foreign policy double bind. While the recent uptick in U.S.-Iran tensions has trended downwards since the election of President Joe Biden, his predecessor’s approach in the region has had a lasting effect upon Iranian goodwill towards multilateral agreements like the JCPOA.

For the European co-signatories, the nuclear talks in Vienna are embedded within a broader strategy of strategic détente and diplomatic reintegration between Europe and Iran. Beyond the obvious advantages of nuclear non-proliferation, Europe is also eyeing a future where Iran can step up as a fully-fledged, sanction-free actor on the international stage. Despite having an estimated 9 percent share of the world’s oil reserves, the sanction-sapped Iranian economy is woefully underdeveloped. Throw in the simulative potential of Iran’s frozen assets — estimated to be worth between $100 and $120 billion — and it’s easy to see why Europe views Iran as such a promising partner for foreign direct investment.

On a condition of anonymity, a senior official from the US State Department spoke with Reuters and shed some light on the likelihood of a deal being inked during the fourth round of talks, saying: "Is it possible that we'll see a mutual return to compliance in the next few weeks, or an understanding of a mutual compliance? It's possible yes.”

Abbas Araqchi, Iran’s top negotiator, is slightly more pessimistic at the chances of a deal in the immediate future. Speaking on state TV, Araqchi emphasized that Iran would not rush into a new deal without a stable framework of safeguards.

"When it will happen is unpredictable and a timeframe cannot be set. Iran is trying (for) it to happen as soon as possible, but we will not do anything in a rush," Araqchi said.

As formal talks stall, European negotiators are looking at Mohsen Rezaee, one of three front-runners in the upcoming Iranian presidential elections, to cut through the diplomatic red tape and promote mutually beneficial collaboration with the US and EU.

Unlike his fellow presidential candidates, Rezaee is not a lifelong politician. Nevertheless, with a career spanning the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to the Expediency Discernment Council, Rezaee is a seasoned diplomat and pragmatic negotiator. Perhaps Rezaee’s most impressive achievement is the fact that in all his years of civil, military, and political service, he has never once been subject to a corruption scandal or criminal probe.

While established politicians like Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif may be a more conventionally attractive partner with the West, there is growing conviction in Europe that Rezaee, a well-rounded, well-respected, and reliable candidate, is the man best suited to represent Iran and its position on international nuclear negotiations.

A proven leader who is unafraid to express his opinions, Rezaee has repeatedly shown that he is capable of adjusting his opinions and uniting coalitions. Despite his role as a representative of the “Revolution Generation”, Rezaee has made it clear that he is no radical. After years of civil service, Rezaee has broken ranks with many of the hardline views that are commonplace in the IRGC. In fact, in an interview with the Tehran Times, he went as far as to dismiss a nuclear arms race as unwise, remarking: “Political wisdom requires not to chase weapons that can destroy the entire humanity.”

With impediments to progress rearing at every turn in Vienna, it has become abundantly clear that the West needs a man on the ground in Iran. Mohsen Rezaee, and the emerging movement he represents, may be the key to breaking the deadlock in negotiations and bringing Iran back as a major player in the global economy.

The opinions expressed in the above article are thoseof the author alone, and do not reflect any opinion on the part of EU Reporter.

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