Shirin Ebadi and Four Human Rights Organizations Issue Statement

Rampant Impunity from Prosecution Continues to Claim Victims

Wednesday 8 June 2011

Change for Equality: Following the tragic death of women’s rights activist Haleh Sahabi following the eruption of violence at the hands of security forces at the funeral of her dissident father, Ezatollah Sahabi, four human rights organizations along with Nobel Peace Prize recipient Shirin Ebadi have issued a statement calling for end to the impunity from prosecution which allows security and state officials to carryout systematic violence and criminal offenses against the public. The organizations issuing this statement along with Shirin Ebadi are: Reporters without Borders, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, the International Federation for Human Rights, and its affiliate, the Iranian League for the Defence of Human Rights. The text of the statement issued on June 8, appears below:

Rampant Impunity from Prosecution Continues to Claim Victims

(8 June 2011) On the occasion of the second anniversary of the widespread crackdown on public protests in Iran, Shirin Ebadi, 2003 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and four human rights organizations called on the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights and the Human Rights Council to take a more serious stance in protecting security and human rights of the Iranian people. The human rights organizations included: Reporters without Borders, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, the International Federation for Human Rights, and its affiliate, the Iranian League for the Defence of Human Rights.

“The United Nations Special Rapporteur for Iran should be named soon and his mission to Iran expedited. The country’s situation is deteriorating day by day. The arbitrary arrests and imprisonment of citizens, systematic torture and executions with no legal basis continue. People are not only denied right to peaceful assembly, but government forces and plain clothes security agents even prevent them from having private mourning ceremonies and violently attack them,” said Nobel Peace Laureate and human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi.

On 1 June 2011, political prisoner and women’s rights activist Haleh Sahabi was attacked during the funeral procession of her father, Ezatollah Sahabi, a prominent Iranian politician, who had died of natural causes two days earlier. According to credible eyewitnesses, Haleh Sahabi died as a direct result of this physical assault. So far, Islamic Republic authorities have not taken any steps to investigate the circumstances surrounding her death. Some officials have announced the reason for her death as “heart attack” in government media. Under pressure from security officials, Haleh Sahabi’s body was buried at night without any investigation into cause of her death and even without proper burial rituals for a Muslim woman.

Immediately following the disputed 12 June 2009 presidential election and the onset of public protests, thousands of people were arbitrarily arrested and tried in unfair trials without access to their basic legal rights, and received long sentences. According to testimonies by prisoners and their families, many of them were subjected to torture and cruel, inhumane, and insulting abuse during their interrogation and while serving prison terms. Some of these prisoners have published a group letter, formally filing a complaint against the Revolutionary Guards, the Intelligence Ministry, and judicial authorities for psychological and physical torture.

The Iranian Judiciary lacks independence. According to Article 110 of the Iranian Constitution, the Head of the Judiciary is appointed by the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Although Article 156 of the Iranian Constitution stipulates the Head of the Judiciary’s responsibilities as “ensuring the rights of all, and promotion of justice and legitimate liberties,” Ayatollah Amoli Larijani, currently heading the Judiciary, not only does not adhere to this article, but by not pursuing the prosecution of those who violate the rights of the public and those officials who carryout and order torture and serious crimes, he promotes greater audacity in their violent acts in violence in society and especially against prisoners.

“Considering the deterioration of the Iranian judicial system, Iranian citizens have grown hopeless about the implementation of justice,” Ebadi said. “Iranian citizens no longer wish to file their grievances with the courts. Political prisoners and their families have boycotted the Tehran Prosecutor to protest the Judiciary’s negligence. They have officially announced that henceforth they will not make any requests of judicial authorities. The international community is obligated to help the Iranian people have access to justice,” she added.

Haleh Sahabi is not the only woman who has fallen victim to violence and impunity from prosecution of those who committed violence. During the past three decades, hundreds of women have been murdered on the streets or inside the prisons. For instance, in July 2003, an Iranian Canadian journalist, Zahra Kazemi, was beaten by judicial authorities inside Evin prison, and died shortly thereafter as a result of the head injury. The body of Zahra Kazemi was hurriedly and against the wishes of her son, Estephan Hachemi who lives in Canada, buried in Shiraz. Zahra Kazemi’s mother has said in an interview that she was under immense pressure from the Iranian authorities to agree that her daughter be buried in Iran. Zahra Kazemi’s family lawyers repeatedly criticized the judicial process review. During the lower court and appeals court proceedings, the lawyers were not allowed to invite witnesses to trial, some of whom were high-level judicial officials, such as Saeed Mortazavi, the Tehran General and Revolutionary Courts Prosecutor at the time, who was personally involved in Zahra Kazemi’s interrogation and according to several witnesses, was directly involved in beating her.

Part of the imposed limitations on independent lawyers who defend prisoners of conscience is because of their relentless pursuit of the institutionalized impunity within the Iranian judicial system. Mohammad Seifzadeh, a prominent Iranian lawyer and a member of the Center for Human Rights Defenders, who also represented Zahra Kazemi, has been arbitrarily and illegally arrested and imprisoned. He was sentenced by Branch 15 of Tehran Revolutionary Court to nine years in prison and a ten year ban on his legal practice on the charge of “cooperating to establish the Center for Human Rights Defenders.” Nasrin Sotoudeh, lawyer to Haleh Sahabi, was arrested on 4 September 2010, and was later sentenced to 11 years in prison. A witness to the Iranian Judiciary’s injustice herself, Sotoudeh has forfeited appealing the court’s decision.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur must investigate all cases of gross and systematic human rights violations in Iran and the way impunity from prosecution has come to reign in the country. We, the signatory human rights organizations, believe that the institutionalized impunity from prosecution is one of the main reasons for the increased violence and commitment of tragic crimes such as the murder of Haleh Sahabi, continued practice of systematic torture, and the cruel and inhumane treatment inside prisons and the arbitrary arrests in Iran.

We urge that the UN Special Rapporteur be appointed as soon as possible and make arrangements to visit Iran. We commit to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur in providing documents and introducing eye witnesses to gross human rights violations in Iran.


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