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Iran must ensure rights of Christian minority and fair trial for the accused– UN experts

GENEVA (2 February 2018) – UN human rights experts* have called on Iran to ensure a fair and transparent final hearing for three Iranian Christians who are due to appear before the Revolutionary Court in Tehran this weekend.

“We are deeply concerned by the long jail sentences imposed at a previous hearing on Pastor Victor Bet Tamraz, Amin Afshar Naderi and Hadi Asgari for allegedly ‘conducting evangelism’ and ‘illegal house church activities’, and similar charges that, according to the authorities, amount to acting against national security, completely contrary to Iran’s international obligations under the UDHR and the ICCPR” the four Special Rapporteurs said in a joint statement.

“We are additionally concerned about the lack of healthcare made available to them while in detention and, in particular, about the current health condition of Mr. Asgari who remains in prison,” they added.

“We strongly call on the Government to ensure that the final review hearing on Sunday is fair and transparent, in accordance with Iran’s obligations under international human rights law,” the experts said.

The Revolutionary Court judge has the power to end the case, confirm the sentences or refer the case to the Supreme Court, with the men either freed on bail or jailed in the meantime.

The three Christians were given provisional jail sentences of 10 years at a previous hearing in July. Mr. Naderi received an additional five years for blasphemy. 

The experts say they are also concerned that the prosecution of the three Christians is not an isolated case.

“We are aware of several other reported cases in which members of the Christian minority have received heavy sentences after being charged with ‘threatening national security’, either for converting people or for attending house churches,” they said.

“This shows a disturbing pattern of individuals being targeted because of their religion or beliefs, in this case a religious minority in the country.

“Members of the Christian minority in Iran, particularly those who have converted to the faith, are facing severe discrimination and religious persecution.”

The UN experts stressed that it was “of paramount importance” for the Iranian Government to abide by its obligations under international human rights law.

“The authorities must ensure fair trials for all, including the religious minorities in the country,” they said.

“We also urge the Government to immediately and unconditionally release all those who have been arrested and detained for exercising their right to freedom of religion or belief.”

The UN experts notified the Government of Iran about their concerns.

END

*The UN experts: Mr. Ahmed Shaheed, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief; Ms. Asma Jahangir, Special Rapporteur on Iran; Fernand de Varennes, Special Rapporteur on minority issues; andMr. Dainius Pūras, Special Rapporteur on the right to health;

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Councils independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights country profile - Iran

For more information and media inquiries please contact:
Maken Tzeggai (+41 22 917 9889 / mtzeggai@ohchr.org)

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts please contact:
Jeremy Laurence (+ 41 22 917 9383 / jlaurence@ohchr.org

This year, 2018, is the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN on 10 December 1948. The Universal Declaration – translated into a world record 500 languages – is rooted in the principle that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” It remains relevant to everyone, every day. In honour of the 70thanniversary of this extraordinarily influential document, and to prevent its vital principles from being eroded, we are urging people everywhere to Stand Up for Human Rights: www.standup4humanrights.org.