UN Human Rights Council Should Act to Address Crisis

(9 January 2011) The International Campaign for Human Rights in  Iran called the 11-year prison sentence of leading human rights lawyer  Nasrin Sotoudeh a “gross miscarriage of justice” and said that it should be  overturned by an appeals court.

Sotoudeh was sentenced to 11 years in jail, and banned from practicing law  and traveling for 20 years. The judge sentenced her to five years in prison on  charge of “acting against national security,” another five years for “not  wearing hejab (Islamic dress) during a videotaped message,” and one year  for “propaganda against the regime.”

Reza Khandan, Sotoudeh’s husband, in an interview with the Campaign  described the ruling as “highly strange and unjust.” Sotoueh’s interrogators had repeatedly told her that “they won’t allow the judge to sentence her to less than ten years.”

“This is a transparently political sentence aimed at taking one of Iran’s leading human rights defenders out of practice via a gross miscarriage of justice,” said Hadi Ghaemi, spokesperson for the Campaign.

“Nasrin Sotoudeh has broken no laws, but is being jailed because she has upheld Iranian and international law in a judicial system bent on violating human rights,” he said.

Sotoudeh has defended many of those who have been arbitrarily arrested and charged for exercising their rights after the tainted June 2009 presidential election; among her clients is Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi, who has campaigned strenuously for due process to be observed in her case.  Ebadi organized a sit-in at the UN Human Rights Council to raise awareness about the case and to plead for more international support.

Her sentence is part of a systematic assault on the human rights lawyers and activists in Iran. On 7 January 2011, Shiva Nazarahari, co-founder of Committee of Human Rights Reporters and a prominent activist was sentenced to four years in prison and 74 lashes. On 30 October 2010, Branch 15 of Tehran’s Revolutionary Court sentenced prominent lawyer Mohammad Seifzadeh to nine years in prison and a ten year ban from practicing law.

Sotoudeh, a mother of two children, was arrested on 4 September 2010.  Detained for long periods in solitary confinement, and denied contact with her family and lawyer, she came close to death after three dry hunger strikes to protest her prison conditions and violations of due process.

She has reportedly been tortured in prison in order to force her to confess to crimes.

Her physical condition had deteriorated to the point that her children cried in shock when they were finally allowed to see her.

New charges were brought against her in December, and Iran’s top human rights official, Mohammad Javad Larijani, condemned her for giving press interviews while defending cases.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navy Pillay expressed concern about her case on 23 November 2010, stating:   “I am very concerned that Nasrin Sotoudeh’s case is part of a much broader crackdown, and that the situation of human rights defenders in Iran is growing more and more difficult.”

“This sentence, as well as others of human rights defenders and human rights lawyers, shows the Islamic Republic’s complete disregard for norms of justice and to be operating completely outside the norms established by the international community to protect human rights,” Ghaemi said.

“It vividly demonstrates the need for the UN Human Rights Council to address the human rights crisis in Iran,” he added.