The Defenders of Human Rights Centre declared illegal Threats of prosecution against its members

Press release

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), strongly condemns the serious acts of intimidation and threats made by Iranian authorities against the Defenders of Human Rights Centre (DHRC), an NGO based in Iran.

On August 3, 2006, the Iranian Ministry of Interior indeed declared that the activities of the DHRC were illegal and that those who continued its activities would be prosecuted.

The DHRC, co-founded in 2002 by Mrs. Shirin Ebadi, Iranian advocate and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003, aims at providing legal counsel to dissidents, journalists and students facing prosecution for exercising fundamental freedoms, such as peacefully protesting against or criticising government policies. Since its creation, it has been repeatedly denied legal registration, its requests for registration having been systematically blocked by the Iranian authorities without any reasons being provided.

The Observatory recalls that on July 16, 2006, the Revolutionnary Court sentenced Mr. Abdolfattah Soltani, a lawyer of DHRC, to five years of prison for disclosing confidential information and opposing the State. He appealed the Court’s ruling and is still awaiting the decision. Mr. Soltani had been detained since July 30, 2005 (See Observatory Urgent Appeal IRN 002/0705/OBS 055.5, issued on July 19, 2006). Moreover, Mrs. Shirin Ebadi, DHRC President, was summoned in 2005 by the Revolutionary Public Prosecutor’s office without official reasons, and threatened with arrest and prosecution (See Observatory Annual Report 2005).

The Observatory is extremely concerned by the recent declaration and threats of prosecution against DHRC members. These are in flagrant violation of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by Iran on June 24, 1975, which guarantee freedom of association. They also contravene the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 9, 1998, which states that everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, “to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms” (article 1), “to meet or assemble peacefully” (article 5a), and to “complain about the policies and actions of individual officials and governmental bodies with regard to violations of human rights” (article 9.3a); as well as other regional and international human rights instruments.

The Observatory calls upon the Iranian authorities to guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of all DHRC members. More generally, the Observatory urges them to recognise the role of human rights defenders in the construction of the rule of law and democracy, to put an end to any kind of harassment against them, including through the judicial system, and to adhere to the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and other human rights international and regional instruments ratified by the Islamic Republic of Iran.

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