20 International and Iranian NGOs draw attention to the situation of human rights defenders in Iran who seek truth and justice for 1980s atrocities.
Insight Iran alongside other organisations issued a joint public statement calling on the Iranian authorities to quash the charges and sentences issued against Mansoureh Behkish, Maryam Akbari-Monfared, Raheleh Rahemipour and Ahmad Montazeri.
The Iranian authorities should stop the harassment, intimidation and prosecution of human rights defenders seeking truth and justice on behalf of individuals who were summarily executed or forcibly disappeared during the 1980s and their families, said 20 human rights groups.
Over the past few months, several human rights defenders, including Mansoureh Behkish, Maryam Akbari-Monfared and Raheleh Rahemipour, have been subjected to harassment, reprisals or prosecution on vague national security-related charges for their peaceful efforts to learn the fate and whereabouts of their loved ones. The persecution signals renewed efforts by the authorities to suppress the struggle that has been ongoing for over three decades to reveal the truth about the gross human rights violations that were perpetrated by the Iranian authorities during the 1980s, including the extrajudicial executions of several thousands in 1988 and their burial in unmarked mass graves.
The latest wave of persecution of those seeking truth and justice appears to have been triggered by the release in August 2016 of an audio recording of a meeting in 1988 in which senior officials are heard discussing and defending the details of their plans to carry out the 1988 mass executions.
The audio recording has sent shockwaves across the country and prompted the authorities to admit for the first time that the mass killings of 1988 were planned at the highest levels of government. Ahmad Montazeri, the son of the late Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, who was at that time the Deputy Supreme Leader, has since been sentenced to imprisonment for posting the audio file on his father’s website.
The undersigned human rights organizations urge the Iranian authorities to stop their attempts to silence human rights defenders and others seeking to shed light on past atrocities. Instead, they should respect their obligations under international human rights law to carry out thorough and impartial investigations into the serious human rights violations committed in the 1980s, including the 1988 extrajudicial executions, and ensure the rights to truth, justice and reparations for the victims and their families.
To read the full statement, please click here.
10 human rights organisations wrote to the EU officials in relation to 32 Bahá’ís sentenced recently to 238 years imprisonment.
We, the undersigned human rights and civil society organizations, wish to express our deep concern over the human rights violations against the Bahá’í community occurring in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Specifically, we would like to draw your attention to the situation of thirty two members of the Bahá’í community in the province of Golestan who have recently been sentenced to a collective 238 years in prison for practicing their religion. This has been the biggest mass arrest of Baha’is in Iran in the last ten years and the amount of torture and abuse they have suffered from has been extremely severe compared to similar cases. While eight of them HAVE already started serving their long-term imprisonment, the Court of Appeal is due to consider the cases of the other twenty four on June 15, 2016.
In the period between October 2012 and January 2014, these thirty two private individuals were arrested by agents of the Ministry of Intelligence in several cities in the Golestan province in Northern Iran. The security forces then subjected these individuals to physical and mental abuse in detention, amounting to degrading and inhuman treatment and torture, in order to extract false confessions from the detainees to charges against national security.
We have specific and detailed accounts of what occurred during their detention at the hands of the State. For instance, Mr. Behnam Hassani was bound at the wrists and hung from the ceiling such that his feet could not touch the ground, causing tremendous agony and being relieved only when he was dismounted for severe physical beatings. Ms. Pouneh Sana’i was forced to stand on one foot while holding a chair above her head as she was beaten intermittently over the course of a full day. Ms. Shima Ghodusi was blindfolded and beaten in the head with a book. Ms. Hana Aghighian was kicked continuously beaten during her interrogation, and her interrogator stuffed the interrogation sheet in her mouth. When she protested against her treatment, she was told by the officer that ‘any treatment of Bahá’ís is permissible’. The detainees were also subjected to verbal abuse, including threats of physical and sexual violence and threats against their children and family members. This included threats that their family members would be framed for narcotics offenses and sentenced to death.
On November 29, 2012, after the first twelve detainees were released on bail, they filed a formal complaint regarding their treatment in detention to the Head of the Judicial District, Judge. Fazelian. In response to this complaint, the released detainees received a standard issue response from Judge Fazelian regarding further investigation. Despite this, no measures were taken to hold the detaining officers accountable for their actions. Furthermore, the false confessions extracted under pain of torture were validated by the trial judge, Judge Moghiseh of Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court of Tehran. Following an eight minute trial hearing, Judge Moghiseh rendered his verdict on April 24, 2013, sentencing eight of the Bahá’ís to 5 to 10 years in prison. These individuals are now serving their sentences at the Rajaei-Shahr Prison near Tehran, Iran.
In separate but related trials held between December 2014 and December 2015, Branch 2 of the Revolutionary Court of Gorgan tried a further twenty four Bahá’ís in groups of four. In a verdict dated January 27, 2016, Judge Ghanbari sentenced them to 6 to 11 years in prison each, totalling 193 years of prison time, for charges including ‘propaganda for the Bahá’í faith and against the Islamic Republic through membership in an illegal organization,’ and ‘collaboration with hostile states to promote the sectarian, anti-Islam and anti-Shia objectives of imperialist states’. The convicted individuals have already appealed against the decision to the Court of Appeal in Gorgan which is to be considered on June 15, 2016. Amongst them are parents whose children will be abandoned if the appeal is rejected.
We submit that all of the detained individuals in these cases were denied their basic human rights and freedoms from the moment of their arrest. They were subjected to torture in detention, forced to sign false confessions, denied access to their legal representation at the pre-trial stage, and as a result, they were indisputably denied the right to a fair trial. Their formal complaints about their treatment in detention were not properly investigated and crucially, their convictions were not based on proper evidence or reasonable conclusions but rather on confessions obtained under duress and pain of torture.
The right to a fair trial and the right to freedom from torture are established principles both under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, that has been ratified by Iran, and under Iranian domestic laws, including the IRI Constitution (Articles 38 and 39), the Citizens’ Rights Law (Sections 1-14), and the Islamic Penal Code (Article 169, and article 578 of Book Five). The decisions rendered by the courts in these cases violate these international standards and domestic laws, as well as the Iranian Constitution, and criminalize the day to day existence of these private citizens by creating a false narrative that the practice of their faith constitutes an action against Islam and the State.
Our organisations are deeply alarmed by the verdicts in these mass trials and are concerned that justice will not be served in the Court of Appeal which will take the case into consideration on June 15, leaving these Bahá’ís to serve their lengthy and unconscionable sentences in prison.
We therefore urge you, as a matter of urgency, to call on the authorities of the Islamic Republic of Iran to:
Roya Boroumand, Executive Director
Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation
Dr Hossein Ladjevardi, President
Association des Chercheurs Iraniens’ (ACI)
Dr. Shirin Ebadi, Founder and President
Center for Supporters of Human Rights
Keyvan Rafiee, Director
Human Rights Activists in Iran (HRAI)
Mohammad Nayyeri, Founder and Director
Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, Executive Director
Iran Human Rights
Shadi Sadr, Co-Director
Justice for Iran (JFI)
Farhad Sabetan, Executive Director
Rebin Rahmani, Director of European Branch
The Kurdistan Human Rights Network
Mohammad Mostafaei, Director
Universal Tolerance Organization