Iran: Free prominent human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) calls for the immediate release of prominent Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, as we believe that her arrest and detention are solely due to her human rights work. Reports suggested that her detention comes following her legal representation of women arrested in Iran for peacefully protesting against the Islamic Republic’s compulsory hijab law, and for criticising the judiciary.
On 13 June 2018, Sotoudeh was taken from her home in Tehran. During the interrogation, she was told that the charges against her are “propaganda against the state,” for allegedly being a member of LEGAM, an NGO opposed to the death penalty, and “assembly and collusion against national security.” The charges could incur a five-year prison sentence.
Her husband, Reza Khandan, told an Iranian news agency that Sotoudeh’s initial one-month detention was extended for another month at the end of July after a delay.
Before her arrest, Sotoudeh was among a group of human rights lawyers who signed a letter criticising the judiciary’s decision to allow only 20 state-approved lawyers to defend people in security-related cases.
Sotoudeh also represents at least two women detained for refusing to cover their hair in public. Since December 2017, dozens of women have been arrested for removing their hijab during regular protest campaigns under hashtags including #mystealthyfreedom, #whitewednesdays, #girlsofenghelabstreet and #mycameraismyweapon.
For many years, Sotoudeh has represented prominent opposition activists, and was previously imprisoned from 2010 to 2013, after being convicted on security-related charges for her human rights work. She was initially sentenced to 11 years in prison, reduced to six years and then released after three years.
Sotoudeh was awarded the prestigious Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought by the European Union in 2012. She has two children.
GCHR expresses serious concern at the continued targeting and harassment of human rights defenders in Iran including Nasrin Sotoudeh. GCHR expresses particular concern for lack of civic space in the country.
GCHR urges the authorities in Iran to:
- Immediately and unconditionally release Nasrin Sotoudeh and drop all charges against her;
- Guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of Nasrin Sotoudeh while she remains in detention;
- Provide human rights defenders with a safe civic space in which to conduct their work;
- Stop arbitrarily arresting and intimidating human rights defenders as a result of their participation in peaceful human rights activities; and
- 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 Recognised 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.”