Iran: Police disperse sit-in staged by Nasrin Sotoudeh to protest persecution of dissidents

Press release
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Ms. Nasrin Sotoudeh, renowned human rights lawyer and 2012 Sakharov Prize laureate, staged a sit-in in front of the Tehran Bar Association today, in protest against the Iranian government’s ongoing persecution of dissident voices and the regime’s increasing control over the Iranian Bar and Judiciary.

The police and intelligence services dispersed the protest several hours later. They confiscated the camera of a journalist working for AFP. The camera was later returned to him after the photos displaying the sit-in had been deleted.

The Iranian government must stop the persecution of human rights activists and lawyers, said Karim Lahidji, FIDH President. FIDH fully supports Ms. Sotoudeh’s calls and remains in solidarity with her and all other human rights defenders in Iran.

The UIA stands firmly behind Nasrin Sotoudeh, who has been prosecuted because she is a lawyer committed to the defence of human rights, declared Stephen L. Dreyfuss, UIA President. Iran must confirm its commitment to human rights and allow this outstanding lawyer to continue to practice her profession.

Ms. Sotoudeh had announced the staging of the sit-in yesterday in a letter published on her husband’s Facebook page, in which she expressed her concern over the increasing pressure and control the regime is exerting over lawyers and the Bar Association. This pressure imposed by the regime on the Bar resulted in the annoucement on Saturday that Ms. Sotoudeh will be barred from practicing law for three years, after multiple petitions from the Islamic Revolution Court for the Bar to suspend her law license. This suspension is based on Ms. Sotoudeh’s 2011 conviction for several “crimes” including “propaganda against the system” based on interviews she gave to international media on the human rights situation in Iran. Her trial and sentencing were declared arbitrary and illegal by the United Nations.

Ms. Sotoudeh has called on the Bar to reverse its illegal suspension of her license, and for the regime to allow lawyers and the Bar to work free from persecution.

Recalling the key role of lawyers in the administration of justice, our organizations urge the Iranian authorities to comply with the standards set forth in the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, adopted in September 1990, which provide that “governments shall ensure that lawyers are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference” (Principle 16).

Furthermore, Principle 23 states : “Lawyers like other citizens are entitled to freedom of expression, belief, association and assembly. In particular, they shall have the right to take part in public discussion of matters concerning the law, the administration of justice and the promotion and protection of human rights and to join or form local, national or international organizations and attend their meetings, without suffering professional restrictions by reason of their lawful action or their membership in a lawful organization”.

Our organizations call on the Iranian authorities to respect freedoms of expression and association and to stop the persecution of dissident voices. The Judiciary and the Bar must also be allowed to function independently, particularly those lawyers seeking to represent individuals facing politically-motivated charges.

Joint press release : FIDH and its member organizations in Iran LDDHI (League for the Defence of Human Rights in Iran), DCHR (Defenders of Human Rights Center) and UIA (International Association of Lawyers).

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