Paris-Geneva, September 19, 2013. 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), welcomes the release on September 18 of prominent human rights defender and lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh.
Ms. Nasrin Sotoudeh is known for defending juveniles facing death penalty, prisoners of conscience, human rights activists and children victims of abuse, and for being a member of the Defenders of Human Rights Centre (DHRC). She is also the co-recipient of the 2012 prestigious Sakharov human rights prize awarded by the European Parliament.
Ms. Sotoudeh was arrested on September 4, 2010 and sentenced on January 9, 2011 to 11 years of imprisonment for allegedly “acting against national security”, “propaganda against the system”, “collusion and gathering with the aim of acting against national security” and “membership in an illegal organisation”. On September 14, 2011, her sentence was reduced to six years’ imprisonment and 10 years’ ban on practising law. During her detention, Ms. Sotoudeh was held for long periods in solitary confinement and denied contact with her family and lawyer. She repeatedly went on hunger strike to protest her prison conditions and violations of due process. Since her arrest, the Observatory had constantly called for the release of Ms. Sotoudeh, whose detention was solely aimed at sanctioning her human rights activities, and had referred the case to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention for a decision on that issue.
According to the information received, on September 17, several other prisoners of conscience were also released, including Ms. Mahboubeh Karami, human rights activist and member of the One Million Signatures Campaign that seeks for the end of discrimination against women in Iran, and Ms. Jila Karamzadeh-Makvandi, supporter of the Mourning Mothers of Laleh Park. There are also as yet unconfirmed reports about the release of Messrs. Issa Saharkhiz, a journalist and founding member of the Iranian Association for the Defence of Freedom of Press, and Ahmad Zeidabadi, also a journalist and Secretary General of ADVAR TAHKIM.
“I am happy to learn about the release of Nasrin Sotoudeh, who has been arbitrarily detained over the past three years in particularly harsh conditions. I hope her release sends a positive signal towards ending the harassment of all human rights defenders and political prisoners in the country,” FIDH President Karim Lahidji said today.
“Although we welcome the release of Nasrin Sotoudeh and several other political prisoners, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani should now continue to take concrete steps towards ending systematic human rights abuses in his country, in particular as he addresses next week the United Nations General Assembly’s 68th session in New York”, OMCT Secretary General Gerald Staberock urged today.
The Observatory calls upon the Iranian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all human rights lawyers and defenders currently detained in Iran in relation to their human rights activities, to cooperate with UN human rights mechanisms - including by allowing the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran and other UN Special Procedures to visit the country - and to fully conform with the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.