British legal bodies highlight "dire situation" of human rights in Iran

8 July 2011

— Two prominent legal associations are calling upon the United Nations' new special investigator for Iran to examine the "dire situation" of human rights defenders and alleged "dissidents" in the country.

In a joint statement, the Law Society and the Solicitors' International Human Rights Group are asking the UN Human Rights Council's newly-appointed Special Rapporteur on Iran to tackle such issues as "how 'dissidents,' who are deemed to have threatened national security on the flimsiest of grounds, are treated..."

The statement highlights the cases of "peaceful protesters who have called for the end of discrimination against women, and academics who have countered the cynical exclusion of their co-religionists from tertiary education by setting up a university to cater for excluded Baha'i youth."

Nine people are still being detained following a series of raids carried out seven weeks ago on 39 homes of Baha'is who were offering education to young community members barred by the government from university.

The UN Human Rights Council voted in March this year to appoint the special investigator to monitor Iran's compliance with international human rights standards. The appointment to the post of Ahmed Shaheed – a former Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Maldives – was announced last month.

The Law Society described the appointment as a "positive step."

"The Law Society and the Solicitors Human Rights Group have appealed to Iran several times in recent years about particular human rights cases, and we are familiar with many of the serious issues surrounding human rights in the country," said Law Society president Linda Lee.

Lionel Blackman, the chair of the Solicitors' International Human Rights Group, said the Special Rapporteur also "needs to boldly look beyond the explicit mistruths stated by the Iranian authorities – such as those by Mohammad-Javad Larijani, Secretary-General of the High Council for Human Rights last month, that Iran does not arrest any Baha'i in Iran just for being a Baha'i.

"A well documented record of over three decades by a range of credible sources suggests the contrary. Indeed the very national representatives of this religious minority community have just entered the third year of imprisonment of a 20 year sentence which stemmed from a highly flawed legal process," said Mr. Blackman.

Latest reports suggest that more than 100 Baha'is are now incarcerated in Iranian prisons.

The statement, issued on 6 July, also expresses concern over "the detention and debarring of lawyers who have fulfilled their professional calling by defending the rights of opposition activists, journalists, ethnic and religious minorities and juvenile offenders, as well as other victims of grave human rights violations."

"The lack of due process, independence of the judiciary and equality before the law jeopardizes the universal human rights of all Iranians," said Linda Lee.

The Law Society represents thousands of solicitors in England and Wales. The Solicitors' International Human Rights Group promotes awareness of international human rights within the legal profession, encourages human rights lawyers outside of the United Kingdom, and conducts related missions, research, campaigns and training.

Special Reports

The Baha'i World News Service has published a Special Report which includes articles and background information about the seven Iranian Baha'i leaders - their lives, their imprisonment, trial and sentencing - and the allegations made against them. It also offers further resources about the persecution of Iran's Baha'i community.

Another Special Report includes articles and background information about Iran's campaign to deny higher education to Baha'is. It contains a summary of the situation, feature articles, case studies and testimonials from students, resources and links.

The International Reaction page of the Baha'i World News service is regularly updated with responses from governments, nongovernmental organizations, and prominent individuals, to actions taken against the Baha'is of Iran.

The Media Reports page presents a digest of media coverage from around the world.

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