Washington, D.C. – This morning, the House Foreign Affairs Middle East and North Africa subcommittee and the Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations subcommittee convened a hearing entitled, “One Year Under Rouhani: Iran’s Abysmal Human Rights Record.”  Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, delivered the following opening statement.

Witness testimony, other opening statements, and archive video of the hearing are available HERE.

The video of Chairman Royce’s opening statement is available HERE.  Below is the text of the opening statement:

“The Iranian regime continues to involve itself in these serious human rights abuses — even as we sit here today — on a very large scale. At least 750 people have been executed without due process in the past year — this is under President Rouhani.  It’s no wonder that Iran continues to stiff-arm the U.N.’s special rapporteur on human rights in Iran.

I know that some thought the election of President Rouhani might be a turning point. I would hope it would be, but I think we should remember that this is a man who called on the regime’s Basij militia to ‘crush mercilessly and monumentally’ the student protesters.  More than a dozen students were killed in the protests of 1999, more than a thousand were arrested, and several hundred were tortured.

We should be speaking out against these abuses.  For one, it is our moral responsibility to show Iranians that we are concerned about what happens to them, as human beings.  Unfortunately, I fear that the Obama Administration’s ‘engagement’ with Iran has signaled to them that we are focused on its nuclear program alone  – no matter how many innocent men or women are being beaten, or tortured, or raped or killed for expressing their hope for change in Iran.

Of course, Iran’s nuclear program is a paramount national security concern.  But a focus on the Iranian regime’s militant character is just as critical to U.S. security interests.  How the regime treats its people is a pretty good indicator of how it’s going to treat its neighbors.

Let’s imagine that Iran and the P5+1 come to an agreement next month – are we comfortable leaving this regime with much of the critical nuclear infrastructure in place? How can this regime – which holds the noose in one hand – be trusted to hold the keys to a nuclear bomb in the other?   There is a reason that we are more comfortable when such dangerous technology is in the hands of democratic nations – not hostile ones.

To be fair, the Bush Administration too pushed human rights aside in its nuclear negotiations with North Korea. Members here on this committee, who served with me for a while, will remember my criticism of the Bush Administration at that time for that failure. But this failure to speak out against a regime’s abuses – whether it is Tehran or Pyongyang – fails to grasp the concept that promoting human rights, promoting democracy in Iran and improving our national security, in fact, go hand-in-hand.”