Crackdown on Human Rights Groups Continues with Arrest of Activist
(15 January 2009) Security agents arrested Jinous Sobhani, the former secretary of the Defenders of Human Rights Center (DHRC) and the Organization for the Defense of Mine Victims, and confiscated her address book, telephone and other work materials on 14 January 2009. Shirin Ebadi, the 2003 Nobel Peace Laureate, is a co-founder of both groups.
The DHRC, a leading independent Iranian group providing legal defense of human rights violations, has been closed since 22 December 2008, when agents forced their way into the Center during preparations for a celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Authorities have claimed that the Center was not a legally registered organization, although numerous other non-registered organizations function in Iran. The DHRC’s application for registration was denied several years ago.
“If the Center was indeed closed on account of its lack of registration, then why arrest a staff member who has already lost her job?” asked Hadi Ghaemi, Coordinator of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. “The arrest appears to confirm that the closure of the Center was politically motivated.”
Expressions of support for the Center continue to arrive from diverse regions. A group of human rights organizations from throughout Asia has written to Iran’s Islamic Human Rights Commission to urge that the Defenders of Human Rights Center (DHRC) be legally registered and allowed to function while being protected from further persecution and harassment. The group noted that the Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions has urged the Commission to facilitate the registration of Iranian nongovernmental groups.
In a letter to the Islamic Human Rights Commission on 13 January 2009, the Asian NGOs Network on National Human Rights Institutions (ANNI) pointed out that the denial of registration amounts to a violation of internationally-protected human rights:
“We believe that the closure of the offices of the DHRC is inconsistent with Article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states that everyone has the right to freedom of association with others. It is also inconsistent with Article 5 of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, which provides that everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to form, join, and participate in non-governmental organizations, associations, or groups.”
ANNI’s letter to the Iranian Islamic Human Rights Commission can be viewed here.
The Iranian Islamic Human Rights Commission’s response can be viewed here.