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Iran: UN experts condemn harsh sentencing of human rights defenders

Rights defenders in Iran

04 May 2012

GENEVA (4 May 2012) – A group of United Nations independent experts condemned the on-going arrests and harsh sentencing of human rights defenders in the Islamic Republic of Iran, and urged the Government to ensure that rights defenders are not being targeted for carrying out their legitimate activities and are provided with adequate protection.

“The conviction and extremely harsh sentencing of human rights defenders is an indication of mounting repression against the legitimate activities of human rights defenders and represents a serious setback for the protection of human rights in Iran,” said the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ahmed Shaheed.

The UN experts expressed particular concern about the situation of Nargess Mohammadi, whose state of health is reportedly extremely fragile. Ms. Mohammadi, the former vice-president of the Defenders of Human Rights Centre, founded by Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi, was rearrested on 21 April to resume a six-year prison sentence handed down by an Iranian appeal court for ‘assembly and collusion against national security, membership in Defenders of Human Rights Centre, and propaganda against the regime’.

“Human rights defenders play a fundamental role in ensuring a democratic society which respects human rights. They must be allowed to carry out their work without facing intimidation, harassment, arrest, and prosecution,” added the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya. “Above all, the State is required to respect defenders’ individual human rights, including the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.”

Other human rights defenders arrested or convicted for carrying out their legitimate work include members of the Committee of Human Rights Reporters, as well as individual activists such as Mr. Abdolfattah Soltani and Ms. Nasrin Sotoudeh, both lawyers who have represented many high-profile political and human rights activists. Mr Soltani was arrested in September 2011 on charges of collusion, propaganda against the system and acquisition of property through illegitimate means and was sentenced to 18 years in prison and a 20-year ban on practicing law. Ms Sotoudeh was arrested in September 2010 and sentenced by an Iranian appeal court to 6 years’ imprisonment along with a 10-year ban from practising law.

“I am really worried that human rights lawyers are being identified with their clients or their clients’ causes as a result of discharging their functions,” said the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Gabriela Knaul. “The Government has an obligation to ensure that lawyers can perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference and that they do not suffer prosecution for any action taken while carrying out their duties.”

The UN independent experts called for the immediate release of the human rights defenders concerned, along with all those people who have been arrested and detained for peacefully promoting human rights observance in the country.

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