Open Letter of 123 Clients of Shirin Ebadi and other Lawyers at the Defenders of Human Rights Center to Judiciary Head

Friday 30 January 2009

Open Letter of 123 Clients of Shirin Ebadi and other Lawyers at the Defenders of Human Rights Center to Judiciary Head

His Excellency

Ayatollah Shahroudi

Head of the Judiciary

Of the Islamic Republic of Iran

Dear Ayatollah Shahroudi,

Respectfully we would like to inform you that the process of imposing limitations on the defenders of human rights lawyers, who represent political and social activists, which began with the illegal closure of the Defenders of Human Rights Center on December 21, 2008, is quickly transforming into standard procedure. For example, in the last weeks, the human rights activities of volunteer lawyers and the founders of the DHRC, including the professional and human rights activities of Shirin Ebadi, human rights lawyer, who heads the Center, has been met with resistance intent on limiting their scope of action and impact.

One such example occurred on the December 29, 2008 when 5 persons went to Ms. Ebadi’s private law office claiming to be tax agents. In an illegal act and despite protests from Ms. Ebadi, the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, these agents seized all documents in the office, including all the confidential case files pertaining to Ebadi’s clients. This was the second act of harassment against Ms. Ebadi and her colleagues at the Center, within a ten day span of time. This illegal action is of significance because according to Iranian law, lawyers are charged with acting as confidents for their clients and expected to treat information related to their cases in a confidential manner. They are, according to Iranian law, not allowed to divulge private information about their clients. The seizure of these documents and client case files in fact breaches the confidential nature of the client-lawyer relationship. This is an especially important issue of concern, when it comes to clients who have been charged with political and security crimes, and where greater sensitivity exists with respect to the information in their case files. In fact, the act of divulging information related to the cases of this group of clients, may lead to threats against their safety and their lives and is indeed a clear example of a violation of civil rights of citizens and human rights abuse.

We the signatories of this statement, who are clients of Ms. Ebadi and other lawyers working with the Defenders of Human Rights Center, condemn the illegal actions of those claiming to be tax agents in seizing Ms.Ebadi’s confidential case files and view this action as a direct violation the rights of these clients, most of whom are members of Iran’s civil society, to judicial security. We ask you, as the Head of the Judiciary, to follow up this case and bring charges against those individuals who have taken illegally violated the professional and personal domains of human rights lawyers and their clients.

Despite the fact that the Iranian government in accordance with international conventions is obliged to protect human rights defenders and ensure their safety, it is greatly disappointing that agents of the government engage in actions which violate the rights of human rights defenders. As such, we expect the Judiciary to implement the international obligations of the Iranian government, and in so doing begin a process of judicial inquiry of those agents and their supervisors responsible for carrying out these illegal actions against Ms. Ebadi, her colleagues and her clients.

In the end, while expressing our support for our lawyers, we believe that these illegal actions should not become regular and common practice designed to limit human rights lawyers. Given the important position of the Judiciary and your responsibilities as the head of this institution we kindly ask that you issue an immediate order to address these illegal actions with a view toward redressing monetary or other damages.

Read the letter in its original Farsi and view the 123 signatures of clients of Shirin Ebadi and other lawyers working with the Defenders of Human Rights Center.


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