Press Release: Ongoing judicial harassment against women human rights defenders

Press release

Paris-Geneva, April 21, 2009. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), firmly denounces the recent acts of judicial harassment against women human rights defenders in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

On April 13, 2009, Ms. Ronak Safarzadeh, a member of the women’s rights organisation Azar Mehr in Sanandaj, Iranian Kurdistan, and an active member of the “One Million Signatures” Campaign, was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment for “spreading propaganda against the State” and for her alleged and unproven membership in the political opposition group Pejak. The Observatory recalls that Ms. Safarzadeh was arbitrarily arrested and has been detained since October 9, 2007 in Sanandaj prison following her participation in the International Childhood Day on October 8, 2007. She remains detained in Sanandaj, and her defence attorney, Mr. Mohammad Sharif, intends to appeal the ruling.

The Observatory was also informed on April 14, 2009 that the sentence against Ms. Parvin Ardalan, another active member of the “One Million Signatures” campaign, was reduced to one year suspended imprisonment over a period of three years, for “disruption of public order” and “refusal to obey the order of the police” (meaning that if she is found guilty of another crime within a three years’ time period, she will be required to serve a one year prison term). Ms. Ardalan had been arrested in March 2007 in front of the Revolutionary Court as she peacefully demonstrated in support of women’s rights activists who were then subjected to judicial harassment.

“I am particularly concerned with the multiform muzzling strategies that are increasingly used by the Iranian authorities in order to intensify their crackdown on all segments of the independent civil society, in particular women human rights defenders”, said Karim Lahidji, President of the Iranian League for the Defence of Human Rights and FIDH Vice-President.

“The sentencing of Ms. Ronak Safarzadeh and Ms. Parvin Ardalan sadly highlights the lack of respect Iran has for fundamental human rights. These two exorbitant sentences show the disregard the judicial Iranian authorities have for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and for the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantee equality between men and women, as well as their rejection of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, which ensures the protection of the women and men who fight for the respect of fundamental human rights”, said Eric Sottas, OMCT Secretary General.

This ongoing judicial harassment and the sternness of the sentences against Iranian women human rights defenders seem to be clearly aimed at sanctioning their activities and at discouraging other citizens to get involved in human rights issues.

Accordingly, the Observatory calls upon the Iranian authorities:

- to guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Ms. Ronak Safarzadeh and Ms. Parvin Ardalan;

- to release Ms. Ronak Safarzadeh immediately and unconditionally since her detention is arbitrary as it only aims at sanctioning her human rights activities;

- to stop any kind of harassment, including at the judicial level, against all woman’s rights defenders, and more generally against all human rights defenders in Iran;

- more generally, to conform with the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as international human rights instruments ratified by Iran.

For further information, please contact:

* FIDH: Gaël Grilhot / Karine Appy, + 33 6 48 05 91 57 / + 33 1 43 55 14 12
* OMCT: Delphine Reculeau, + 41 22 809 52 42

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