Ongoing trial of Iran's Baha'i leaders highlighted on global day of action
BRUSSELS, Belgium — On a global day of action highlighting human rights abuses in Iran, the European Union and the Prime Minister of Canada issued strong statements calling for Iran to respect international law.
In a declaration made on behalf of the European Union, its High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Baroness Catherine Ashton, said, "We call on Iran to respect fair trial rights as enshrined in article 14 of the ICCPR (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights). Discrimination against religious and ethnic minorities and women are other areas of concern."
"We are disturbed by serious reports of ill-treatment and torture of those detained and imprisoned as well as allegations of forced confessions," the EU declaration said. "The EU will be closely monitoring the ongoing trial of Baha'i leaders in this regard."
"We take this opportunity to reassure the people of Iran that they have not been forgotten: the EU will continue to speak out and to call on the Iranian authorities to respect the rights of their citizens in accordance with the international obligations to which they have committed under the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights and other human rights treaties," the statement concluded.
The EU declaration was issued on Saturday, 12 June – the same day that the seven Baha'i leaders returned to court in Tehran for the start of the fourth session of their trial, which continues today.
Statement by the Prime Minister of Canada
The Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, also urged Iran to respect the rights of its Baha'i community and "cease persecuting it, discriminating against it and detaining its members."
"We note the trial of the seven leaders of the Baha'i community was to take place today," said Mr. Harper in a statement marking the one year anniversary of Iran's 2009 presidential election, "and we call on the Iranian regime to ensure that due process is respected."
"Iran has made absolutely no progress in the last year toward addressing the legitimate aspirations of its people. In fact, its regime has been even more repressive. Iran's continued, blatant disregard for the rights of its citizens must end," he said.
Calling upon Iran to uphold its human rights commitments, the Prime Minister urged the Iranian government "to respect diverse social and political groups and their freedom of expression, and to engage these groups in a constructive dialogue that will serve to strengthen the rich fabric of the Iranian nation."
United Kingdom appeal
In London, the government of the United Kingdom also issued a statement saying, "This trial comes at a time when we are remembering the human rights abuses surrounding the elections in Iran a year ago."
"I call on the Iranian Government to ensure, without delay, that the rights of these individuals are fully protected," said the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Foreign Office, Alistair Burt on Friday, 11 June, "that they are given due legal process, including being released on bail and given a fair and transparent trial, in accordance with international standards."
The minister also called on the Iranian government "to cease the harassment of, and to also respect the rights, of many members of minority groups who continue to face arrest and lengthy prison sentences, often on vaguely worded charges of acting against national security."
Worldwide day of action
In more than 80 cities around the world, people took to the streets yesterday to call for an end to human rights abuses in Iran. In South Africa, buses are carrying images of Iranian prisoners of conscience as part of the campaign, organised by human rights group United4Iran.
"This is not about party-politics or calls for punitive action," said one campaigner in Johannesburg, "this is a principled call to respect the human rights of every person."
In Berlin, Germany, a group erected a replica prison cell at the city's historic Brandenburg Gate. A display depicting the seven Baha'i leaders read, "Ideals cannot be locked up. But people with ideals can be. In Iran, these people need your help."
"For more than two years the seven Baha'i leaders have been under arrest without justification," said a supporter. "They are imprisoned only because they are Baha'is. Today it is the Baha'is. Tomorrow it could happen to the Sunnis, Jews, Christians or other minorities."
"I hope we are sending a powerful signal of solidarity to the people in Iran," said another. "The Iranian people should know that our thoughts are with them."
In Brazil, campaigners carrying masks depicting Iran's seven Baha'i leaders gathered in front of the Brazilian National Congress last Wednesday to call for their release.
Congressman Mr. Luiz Couto - a former President of the Commission of Human Rights and Minorities - told the gathering that a person's faith is an intrinsic human right, necessary for the development of an individual and his contribution to society.
Referring to the situation of the Baha'is in Iran at a Plenary Session of Brazil's Chamber of Deputies, another congressman, Deputy Paulo Delgado, said that human rights policies in the democratic world are "inescapable and do not admit exceptions." Mr. Delgado expressed his hope that the international community realizes that the "anguish and suffering of a religious minority" is something that "can happen to any of us."