Continued Disappearance of Opposition Figures Raises Concerns of Torture
(3 March 2011) Iranian officials should immediately end the illegal, incommunicado detention of four leading opposition figures: Mehdi Karroubi; Mir Hossein Mousavi; Fatemeh Karroubi; and Zahra Rahnavard, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said today.
The Campaign warns that the incommunicado nature of their eighteen day long detention in an undisclosed location increases the likelihood that the four are facing psychological and physical torture for the purposes of extracting false confessions.
“Arbitrary and incommunicado detention in unknown locations is often associated with torture and ill treatment, and even extrajudicial execution in Iran,” said Hadi Ghaemi, the Campaign’s spokesperson.
“Time and again opposition figures in Iran are detained without contact with their families or lawyers, only to undergo abuse and appear on TV weeks later confessing to baseless charges,” he said.
Iranian intelligence and security services have a well-established track record of relying on torture against opponents to extract false confessions while held in incommunicado detention.
Mousavi and Karroubi’s children have had no access to their parents and are extremely concerned about their well-being and health. In a statement issued today, Mousavi’s daughters said they attempted to visit their parents on the evening of 2 March in their home, but were turned away by guards.
Authorities have been holding Mehdi Karroubi, Mir Hossein Mousavi, Fatemeh Karroubi, and Zahra Rahnavard incommunicado and have deprived them of their liberties since 14 February, when thousands of Iranians joined protests for which the opposition leaders had called. Several sources are reporting that all four have been transferred to either Heshmatiyeh Prison in Tehran, or to an undisclosed third location. Yet Iran’s Prosecutor General Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei, told the semi-official ISNA news agency on 28 February that, “published news by some hostile media regarding the transfer of Mr. Mousavi and Mr. Karroubi to the Heshmatiyeh detention center is false.”
Ejei claimed that the four leaders are confined in their homes and prohibited from communication with the outside world, including their family members. “Judicial action has been taken [against Mousavi and Karroubi], ultimatums have been issued … In the first step, their communications, including their comings and goings, and their telephone conversations have been restricted, and if need be, other steps will be taken,” Ejei said to ISNA.
On 2 March, Tehran’s chief prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi, who was designated among a group of Iranian officials to be blacklisted and sanctioned for their human rights violations by the US government, also claimed that, “using the term house arrest is not correct.”
The International Campaign for Human Right in Iran stresses that regardless of the location of the detentions, authorities are violating the due process rights of the detainees as they are being held, for weeks now, without formal arrest or charge, and without access to their families and lawyers.
Several sources living in Mousavi and Karroubi’s neighborhoods told the Campaign that they are no longer inside their homes and have been transferred.
The United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners instructs that: “An untried prisoner shall be allowed to inform immediately his family of his detention and shall be given all reasonable facilities for communicating with his family and friends, and for receiving visits from them, subject only to restrictions and supervision as are necessary in the interests of the administration of justice and of the security and good order of the institution.”
The UN Commission on Human Rights stated in 2005 that, “prolonged incommunicado detention or detention in secret places may facilitate the perpetration of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and can in itself constitute a form of such treatment.”
The UN International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance makes clear that a disappearance “is considered to be the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty by agents of the State … followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which place such a person outside the protection of the law.”
Iranian law requires that authorities inform a detainee of charges against them within twenty-four hours of their arrest and allow them access to legal counsel, but allows judges to deprive detainees of a lawyer until the investigation is deemed complete.
“Iranian authorities are clearly writing their own rules as they proceed, which absolutely contradicts the rule of law,” Ghaemi said.
“Under these circumstances, anything could be happening to the four disappeared leaders,” he added.
The Campaign holds Iranian authorities responsible for the safety and well-being of the four opposition figures.