DATE=3/30/2000 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=IRAN / RIGHTS (L ONLY) NUMBER=2-260774 BYLINE=LISA SCHLEIN DATELINE=GENEVA CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: A U-N special investigator says Iran is making significant progress toward a more-fee society. Lisa Schlein in Geneva reports the investigator told the U- N Human Rights Commission he expects the changes in Iran to accelerate during the next 12-months. TEXT: U-N investigator Maurice Copithorne says the trend to change in Iran is irreversible. He says the big question is the speed at which reforms progress. Mr. Copithorne says Iran is a society in significant political turmoil. There is resistance to change from hard-line elements in society, but he says this resistance is a reflection of greater freedom of expression in Iran. /// COPITHORNE ACT ONE /// In other words, it is the substantial freedom of expression that now exists that, in a sense, permits us to have a fairly good idea of resistance to further change that still exist. I believe that out of this new freedom of expression, that a sense of accountability is now emerging. /// END ACT /// Mr. Copithorne says the trend toward a freer, more open society is having a positive impact on the human- rights situation in Iran. But he also says serious human-rights violations continue. He says he has compiled many cases of torture, arbitrary arrests, disappearances, and suspicious deaths. He says significant progress is being made with regard to the status of women in areas such as education, training, and health, but he says women still suffer from inequality and discrimination. In his report, Mr. Copithorne discusses what he calls intimidation and harassment of ethnic and religious minorities. He says members of the Baha'i faith continue to face prolonged imprisonment, confiscation of holy places, and denial of the right to assemble. The U-N investigator also says reform of Iran's legal and judiciary system is absolutely critical. /// COPITHORNE ACT TWO /// There is also under the same general head of reform of the legal system, the need to really work on the elements of fair trial. I think with some of the high profile cases in the past six-months and still today, we are seeing what amounts to a denial of a fair trial by any recognized standards. X /// END ACT /// Mr. Copithorne says there is only slow progress in official investigations into several politically charged violent incidents in the past 18-months. And he says he expects human-rights violations to continue while Iran struggles to become a society based on the rule of law. (SIGNED) NEB/LS/JWH/RAE 30-Mar-2000 11:24 AM EDT (30-Mar-2000 1624 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .