shirin-ebadi(25 June 2009) Official Iranian news agencies have published a letter claiming to be from lawyers, university professors, and families of veterans and martyrs, which requests the Justice minister, Gholam-Hussein Elham, to prosecute Iranian Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi for allegedly violating Islamic and constitutional law through her human rights advocacy, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran reported today. Elham is also the spokesman for Ahmadinejad’s government.

The letter, published by Fars News, an outlet close to the Revolutionary Guards, claims that Ms. Ebadi’s advocacy with international authorities in the wake of massive police brutality against peaceful demonstrators violates her obligations as a lawyer. The authors of the letter were not revealed. The publication of the letter follows a series of other allegations that Ebadi is using Western funds to conduct a campaign against the Iranian government.

Ebadi is the director of the Defenders of Human Rights Center, which was closed by authorities in December 2008, and whose deputy was recently detained. She recently discussed with numerous international leaders including UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, EU Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana, and leaders in the European Parliament, how the international community might engage its mechanisms to help stop violence against demonstrators in Iran.

“The most recent efforts by Iranian security and intelligence agencies to threaten and intimidate Shirin Ebadi is a blatant attempt to lay the groundwork for her arrest when she returns to Iran. These efforts must be condemned by Iranian citizens and by the international community,” said Hadi Ghaemi, a spokesperson for the Campaign.

“Rather than being illegal, Shirin Ebadi’s reports and appeals to international authorities are consistent with her duties as a human rights defender, and are also acts of patriotism meant to encourage Iran to abide by its international obligations,” he added.

The Campaign urgently appeals to the United Nations Secretary General, to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, to the European Union High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, and President of the European Parliament to support Ms. Ebadi in the strongest possible manner. The Campaign also calls on leaders to warn Iran that Ebadi’s arrest because of her human rights advocacy is a direct violation of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

The government of Iran has an affirmative obligation to protect rights advocates. The United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, which the UN General Assembly adopted by consensus in 1998, declares that states “shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of [human rights defenders] against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary actions” as a consequence of their legitimate effort to promote human rights.