We regret the decision by the FCO Minister of State for the Middle East, the Rt Hon Alistair Burt MP to attend the inauguration of Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani, on Saturday 5 August.

The Minister’s visit to Iran comes as Tehran continues to pursue its destabilising and malign activities in the region, and at a time when popular calls for accountability by bringing the perpetrators of the 1988 massacre of political prisoners to justice are growing each day inside the Iranian society.

The human rights situation in Iran has not changed but is getting worse on many areas during Rouhani’s first tenure. The number of executions in the country has reached unprecedented levels with over 3000 executions, including public hangings and execution of juveniles since 2013 when Rouhani took office.

Similarly, Tehran continues to test ballistic missiles in violation of the spirit of the nuclear deal and the UN Security Council resolution 2231 and ship weapons to terrorist organisations and militias in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen in breach of the UN weapons embargo.

Rouhani’s decision to increase the budget of Revolutionary Guards with 150% while millions of ordinary Iranians, teachers and workers are not paid their monthly salaries and are deprived of their life savings, only proves his commitment to Iran’s continued support for terrorism.

Under these circumstances, the Minister’s decision to participate at Rouhani’s inauguration is ill-advised and risk legitimising Tehran’s unacceptable behaviour at home and abroad. It also projects weakness among Western allies at a time when a bipartisan legislation in the U.S. imposed comprehensive sanctions on Iran, targeting the Revolutionary Guard Corps, Tehran’s ballistic missile programme and its human rights violations.

Given all of these circumstances the FCO Minister of State for the Middle East, the Rt Hon Alistair Burt MP, should reconsider his decision to attend Rouhani’s inauguration and cancel his visit to Iran. Whether he decides to go or not, the Minister should publicly raise the UK’s deep concerns over the appalling human rights situation in Iran and demand a halt to executions and the immediate release of all political prisoners and British dual citizens held unjustly in the country on bogus charges.

Professor the Lord Alton of Liverpool

Independent Crossbench Member of the House of Lords

British Committee for Iran Freedom

03 August 2017