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Open Letter to Ebrahim Raisi, Chief Justice of Iran Calling for Clemency and Due Process

10 April 2019

Ayatollah Ebrahim Raisi
Chief Justice of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran

Your Honour,

It has become increasingly evident that the Iranian authorities continue to forego their ethical and moral responsibilities and violate the human rights of the Iranian people and foreigners who visit the country. The International Observatory of Human Rights would like to urgently bring to your attention the following violations.

Firstly, Iran has been continuously condemned by the international community for the arbitrary arrest, detention, torture and murder of a number of Iranian citizens. The International Observatory of Human Rights also condemns the alarming injustice faced by human rights defenders such as Nasrin Sotoudeh, a prominent human rights lawyer and women’s rights defender. Nasrin’s husband reported that she had been sentenced to a total of 38 years in prison and 148 lashes for merely practicing the profession of law and standing up for wrongly imprisoned women. The inhumane treatment of this woman is in direct contravention of Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that states,

‘No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.’

Secondly, in addition to Nasrin, there is estimated to be over 7,000 protesters, students, journalists, environmental activists, workers and human rights defenders, including lawyers, women’s rights activists, minority rights activists and trade unionists, who were arbitrarily arrested in 2018 according to the Amnesty report of January 2019. A ground-breaking report in collaboration with Shirin Ebadi, who acted as a member of a committee that was created to oversee how the leaked data is used, was published by RSF on 7 February 2019. The report shockingly uncovered information about 61,940 political prisoners in Iran since the 1980s, of whom at least 520 of them were aged between 15 and 18 at the time of their arrest.

There are also still 11 dual-nationals that are being held by the Iranian authorities and used as bargaining chips in Iran’s international affairs. Amongst those 11 dual-nationals is Dr Ahmadreza Djalali, an imprisoned Iranian-Swedish professor who was arrested in April 2016 and was subsequently sentenced to death for espionage charges based on a forced confession in October 2017. Dr Djalali has faced serious health issues whilst imprisoned and his family has said that the authorities are refusing to allow him to receive adequate medical care from outside the prison’s clinic.

Other dual nationals and Iranian citizens have been arrested simply for carrying out their everyday work. A group of eight environmentalists were detained in January 2018 on baseless charges of ‘espionage’. The international environmental community including the United Nations Environment Programme, has spoken out in condemnation of their unlawful detention.

In February 2018, the UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner responded by saying,

“Nowhere in the world, including Iran, should conservation be equated to spying or regarded as a crime,”

A letter was also sent to the Iranian authorities from a distinguished group of conservationists, environmentalists and academics in November 2018. Notable signatories included Jane Goodall DBE, Founder – Jane Goodall Institute, UN Messenger of Peace, and has been co-signed and supported by 369 signatories from 73 countries.

The arbitrary detention of dual nationals is in direct violation of international human rights law, which evidently prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention as mandated by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The deprivation of liberty of dual nationals such as British-Iranian national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is also in clear contravention of Article 5 of the UK Human Rights Act (1998).

‘Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be deprived of his liberty save in the following cases and in accordance with a procedure prescribed by law.’

Finally, Mr Ebrahim Raisi, as Iran’s new Chief Justice, we look towards you with optimism to demonstrate the strength of your rule to galvanize Iran’s judiciary by offering clemency to all those detained. Notably, the pardoning of dual-nationals would signal a vital turning point in the eyes of the international community, and a more stable future for Iranian affairs on the world stage.

Sincerely and with hope.

Valerie Peay
International Observatory of Human Rights

10 April 2019

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