Nasrin Sotoudeh’s Real Crime is Doing her Job Courageously

Simon Gass, the British Ambassador to Iran

Sunday 12 December 2010

View online : UK in Iran

Simon Gass, the British Ambassador to Iran explains why he is critical of the human rights situation in Iran. “The British Government” he vows, “will continue to draw attentions to cases where people are deprived of their fundamental freedoms.”

I was asked recently by a follower on Twitter why I was so critical of the human rights record in Iran, the country in which I work as a diplomat. He suggested that a diplomat’s place was to promote harmony and understanding between two countries, not highlight differences. I thought his question as to why I see it as important to raise these cases deserved an answer. Twitter doesn’t lend itself to explanations so I thought I’d take the opportunity of International Human Rights Day to write a [blog] on the subject.

It is true that part of a diplomat’s job is to build bridges where bridges can be built. And diplomats should be cautious in criticising the country to which they are posted. But it is also part of a diplomat’s job to explain publicly the views of the government he or she works for. And on human rights Britain and Iran think very differently. For example, we do not see the rights enshrined in both the Universal Declaration and the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights as subject to cultural interpretation. They are fundamental freedoms that define the status of each of us as individuals. The British Government will continue to draw attention publicly to cases where people don’t enjoy those freedoms.

Today, International Human Rights Day is highlighting the cases of those people around the world who stand up for the rights of others - the lawyers, journalists and NGO workers who place themselves at risk to defend their countrymen. Nowhere are they under greater threat than in Iran. Since last year human rights defenders have been harassed and imprisoned. One example is the case of Nasrin Sotoudeh. Ms Sotoudeh is a lawyer who has been working in Iran for many years defending fellow Iranians through the normal legal channels. But she is now under arrest and awaiting trial herself.

Iranian Prosecutors have alleged nebulous charges of ‘acting against national security’, but her real crime is doing her job courageously and highlighting injustices that the Iranian regime would prefer stayed hidden. The British Government has called on Iran to meet the obligations that it has freely signed to prevent arbitrary detention and offer fair trials. The release of Nasrin Sotoudeh would be a good place to start.


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