Paris-Geneva, February 6, 2013. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) has just concluded that the detention of lawyer and founding member of the Defenders of Human Rights Centre (DHRC) Abdolfattah Soltani is arbitrary, and requested the Iranian Government to release him immediately.
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), had referred the case of Mr. Abdolfattah Soltani to the WGAD in August 2012.
In its decision on this submission , the WGAD highlighted that “the source [the Observatory] has documented the extensive work that Mr. Soltani has undertaken as a human rights defender” and that “the Government [of Iran] has not contested the prima facie case which supports the conclusion that the detention of Mr. Soltani follows from the exercise of the rights and freedoms and of (…) his work as a human rights defender, and that there are no grounds to justify the restriction of those rights”.
“The decision of the WGAD is a landmark victory as it recognises that the detention of Abdolfattah Soltani is arbitrary under international law” FIDH President Souhayr Belhassen said today. “Abdolfattah Soltani must be released immediately, and the same holds true for the other DHRC founding members, who are also in jail” she added.
“This decision is all the more important that human rights defenders in Iran face a relentless policy of harassment, and we fear it will increase ahead of the June 2013 elections”, said OMCT Secretary General Gerald Staberock. “It is of vital importance that the Iranian authorities face up to their international obligations and abide by the WGAD decision”, he concluded.
In June 2012, Mr. Soltani was sentenced to 13 years in prison in “internal exile” in the remote city of Borazjan (southern Bushehr province). This imprisonment in exile is contrary to Iranian law, which provide either for “imprisonment” or for “exile” in another part of the country for the vague “offence” of moharebeh (fighting God).
Mr. Soltani has been subjected to judicial harassment for many years but the harassment increased following the contested June 2009 presidential election. Several other DHRC members have also faced harsh repression since the arbitrary closure of the DHRC in December 2008. Ms. Nasrin Soutoudeh, Mr. Mohammad Seifzadeh and Mr. Mohammad Ali Dadkhah are respectively serving prison terms of six, two and nine years.
Beside DHRC members, dozens of human rights defenders are jailed in Iran as a means to prevent their human rights activities. For more information on Iranian human rights defenders behind bars, see: http://www.fidh.org/Iran-List-of-human-rights-12235 and the previous urgent interventions issued by the Observatory.
The decision of the WGAD, which is an international monitoring body composed of independent experts, is based on international law and was issued upon examining the case brought by the Observatory on behalf of Mr. Abdolfattah Soltani vs. the Islamic Republic of Iran.