Amnesty International Report on Human Rights Violations in Last 3 Months

Iran: Worsening Repression of Dissent as Election Approaches

Wednesday 11 February 2009

Amnesty International, the international human rights organization has issued a report on the increased human rights violations in Iran as the elections approach, titled: "Iran: Worsening Repression of Dissent as Election Approaches."

The introductory section of the Report as well as the section on Detentions and Imprisonment of Women’s Rights Activists is copied below. To read the full report, visit the site of Amnesty International.

Iran: Worsening Repression of Dissent as Election Approaches

In the last three months, Amnesty International has received reports of waves of arbitrary arrests and harassment, directed particularly against members of Iran’s religious and ethnic minority communities, students, trade unionists and women’s rights activists. Amnesty International is aware of the apparent arbitrary arrest of, or other repressive measures taken against, over 220 individuals. Many, of those arrested, if not all, are at risk of torture or other ill treatment. Other individuals arrested before this period have been sentenced to death. In addition, several newspapers have been closed down, and access to internet sites has been restricted, including some relating to human rights or which are operated by international broadcasters. These measures may in part be intended to stifle debate and to silence critics of the authorities in advance of the forthcoming presidential election in June 2009. All individuals and groups should be allowed to peacefully exercise their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, including in ways which dissent from state policies and practices, in the run-up to the presidential election.

Amnesty International has documented repeatedly how vaguely worded legislation is being used to silence the most active sectors of the Iranian population. Charges such as “acting against state security”, “spreading lies” “propaganda against the system”, “creating unease in the public mind”, “insulting the holy sanctities” and “defamation of state officials” are used to target members of Iran’s religious and ethnic minorities as well as human rights and other civil society activists. Such laws and practices violate Iran’s obligations under Articles 18, 19, 21 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights regarding freedom of belief, expression, assembly and association.

Amnesty International is calling on the Iranian authorities to end such repressive measures and to uphold the rights to freedom of belief, expression, assembly and association. Vaguely-worded provisions in the legislation of Iran which are being used to restrict these essential freedoms should be repealed or reviewed to bring them in line with Iran’s obligations under international human rights law.

Anyone held as a prisoner of conscience, solely on account of their peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of expression, association, or on account of their religious belief, should be released immediately and unconditionally. Others detained should be released unless they are to be promptly charged with a recognizably criminal offence and tried fairly. All detainees and prisoners should be protected from torture or other ill-treatment.

Amnesty International has not been permitted to visit Iran for first-hand investigation of the human rights situation there since shortly after the Islamic Revolution which took place 30 years ago. While Amnesty International was not always able to speak directly to, and collect testimonies from, the people subjected to human rights violations, whose cases are mentioned in this report, the details are consistent with known patterns of human rights violations in the country.

Detention and Imprisonment of Women’s Rights Activists

Women’s rights defenders, who have been among the most active sectors in Iran’s civil society in recent years, continue to face reprisals on account of their peaceful activities.

Three women – Nafiseh Azad, Bigard Ebrahim and another who wishes to remain unidentified – were arrested on 30 January 2009 while collecting signatures in the mountains near Tehran for the Campaign for Equality, which aims to collect a million signatures of Iranians to a petition demanding an end to discrimination against women in Iranian law. They were transferred to Vozara Detention Centre and on 31 January appeared before a Revolutionary Court judge, who issued Nafiseh Azad with a temporary arrest warrant, but granted bail orders for the other two. Bigard Ebrahim was released on 31 January, and the other individual on 1 February. Nafiseh Azad’s husband, Vahid Maleki, told the Campaign for Equality that he believes his wife was remanded in custody because she had previously ignored a telephone summons calling her for interrogation, on the grounds that, according to the law, she should first be issued with a written summons. On 3 February 2009, officials from the Special Security Branch of the Office of the Prosecutor of the Revolutionary Courts raided Nafiseh Azad’s house, which she shares with two other students Elnaz Ansari and Aida Saadat. Although the warrant shown by the officials related only to the search of Nafiseh Azad’s property, during the raid, property, including phones, computers, DVDs, CDs and documents belonging to both Elnaz Ansari and Nafiseh Azad, was confiscated. The officials also beat Elnaz Ansari and Vahid Maleki, who had come to Tehran from Esfahan to follow his wife’s case. She was released on bail of 500 million rials (approximately US$50,000) on 4 February 2009. She has been charged with “acting against state security by propaganda against the system”.

On 1 February 2009, Alieh Aghdam-Doust, a member of the Campaign for Equality, was arrested and brought under guard to the Office for the Implementation of Sentences to begin a three-year prison sentence imposed after she was convicted of participation in a peaceful demonstration on 12 June 2006 protesting at legalized discrimination against women. The demonstration was forcibly broken up by police, who injured some of the demonstrators and arrested 70. Alieh Aghdam-Doust had originally been sentenced to three years and four months imprisonment and 20 lashes by branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran, but this was reduced to three years imprisonment on appeal. She is a prisoner of conscience.

The appeal of four women’s rights activists against their prison sentence for writing for two websites related to women’s rights began on 27 January 2009. Parvin Ardalan, Jelveh Javaheri, Maryam Hosseinkhah and Nahid Keshavarz were sentenced in September 2008 to six months in jail for their writings for the sites “Change for Equality” and “Zanestan” – which is now banned. The “Change for Equality” website was blocked by the authorities for the nineteenth time earlier this month.

At least five women’s movement activists have been banned from leaving Iran. Most recently, lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh was banned from travelling to Italy in December 2008 to collect a human rights award. In addition, Esha Momeni, who holds joint US-Iranian nationality, was also prevented from leaving the country after her release on bail. At the time of her arrest in October 2008, she was in Iran to visit her family and to conduct research for her Master’s degree thesis on the Iranian women’s movement. As part of her research she had been conducting video interviews with members of the Campaign for Equality in Tehran.


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