Iran: Iran: Continued targeting of prominent human rights defenders by authorities must stop


Human rights defenders in Iran continue to be targeted by authorities as a result of their human rights work. Prominent human rights defenders face arrest, detention and even on their release continue to be subjected to travel bans and on-going harassment.

Dr. Abdolfattah Soltani, is a prominent human rights lawyer and co-founder of the Defenders of Human Rights Centre. He is in detention in the notorious Evin prison where the appalling conditions exacerbate his pre-existing ill health. In 2012, he was sentenced to 13 years in prison and an additional 20-year ban from practising as a lawyer based on charges including “spreading propaganda against the system” and “founding an illegal group”. He has suffered from various medical conditions, including heart problems, while in prison and the prosecution authorities have repeatedly refused to authorise medical leave or transfer to hospital in contravention of his doctor’s recommendations. Furthermore he was told that he was allowed some days prison leave to celebrate Nawruz with his family, however, the conditions attached by the Public Prosecutor’s Office were so restrictive that he could not accept them. The conditions included, not having any contact with people such as activists, not to give any interview with media, and also he should come back exactly after one week to prison.

Human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh continues to be banned from travelling. She was released in September 2013 having spent over three years in prison. Her original sentence comprised an 11-year prison sentence, a ban from practising law and a 20-year travel ban. Her prosecution and continued harassment by authorities relate directly to her work as a lawyer in representing human rights defenders and young prisoners sentenced to death.

Human rights defender, lawyer and writer Emadeddin Baghi also continues to be subjected to a travel ban. He is founder of the Society for the Defence of Prisoners’ Rights and laureate of the 2009 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders. He has advocated for the peaceful improvement of human rights since the 1980s. He has spent several years in prison including in December 2009, when he was arrested during a wave of arrests and spent five months in solitary confinement. Although now released, a travel ban remains in place against him and his basic right of freedom of movement continues to be denied.

Authorities in Iran continue to persecute and question those who participated in peaceful protests throughout the country. The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) expresses serious concern at the continued targeting and harassment of human rights defenders in Iran and the hostile environment in which they work. GCHR expresses particular concern for the health and well being of Dr. Abdolfattah Soltano and the travel bans in place against Nasrin Sotoudeh and Emadeddin Baghi.

The GCHR urges the authorities in Iran to:

  1. Immediately and unconditionally release Dr. Abdolfattah Soltani and drop all charges against him;
  2. Guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of Dr. Abdolfattah Soltani while he remains in detention including by the provision of necessary medical treatment;
  3. Immediately and unconditionally lift the travel bans in place against Nasrin Sotoudeh and Emadeddin Baghi;
  4. Stop arbitrary questioning and intimidating of human rights defenders as a result of their participation in peaceful protests;
  5. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Iran are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment. 

 GCHR respectfully reminds you that the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, recognises the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders, their right to freedom of association and to carry out their activities without fear of reprisals. We would particularly draw your attention to Article 6 (b and c): “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others: (b) As provided for in human rights and other applicable international instruments, freely to publish, impart or disseminate to others views, information and knowledge on all human rights and fundamental freedoms; (c) To study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters”, and to Article 12 (1 and 2): “(1) Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to participate in peaceful activities against violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms. (2) The State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration.”