CIVICUS

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Last updated on 30.10.2020 at 12:59

The Civic Space Developments

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Iran facing coordinated diplomatic efforts to end its treatment of political prisoners and WHRDs

Iran facing coordinated diplomatic efforts to end its treatment of political prisoners and WHRDs

Woman human rights defender Narges Mohammadi was released from Zanjan prison after her sentence was commuted; WHRD and lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh ended her hunger strike due to her deteriorating health; Coordinated diplomatic efforts made by France, Germany and the UK in calling for an end to Iran’s detention of dual nationals and its treatment of political prisoners, the first by the three countries on Iranian human rights abuses.

Peaceful Assembly

At 3am on 8th October 2020, woman human rights defender Narges Mohammadi was releasedfrom Zanjan prison after her sentence was commuted. In 2016, the Revolutionary Court of Iran sentenced Mohammadi to 16 years’ imprisonment on counts including ‘membership in the (now banned) Step by Step to Stop the Death Penalty group’, for ‘taking part in assembly and collusion against national security’ and ‘committing propaganda against the state.’ Under the Islamic Penal Code, she was due for release after serving 10 years of her sentence. Her release follows extensive periods of ill-health, a recent diagnosis of COVID-19 and the ratification of a law on 11th May 2020 reducing prison sentences for political prisoners. 

Expression

On 26th September 2020, jailed woman human rights defender and lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh ended her hunger strike due to her deteriorating health. Sotoudeh went on a hunger strike in Tehran’s Evin Prison on 11th August 2020 in protest at the continuing detention of political prisoners in Iran despite the risks they face due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On 19th September, after five weeks of hunger strike, she was hospitalised with a serious heart condition. However, after only four days in hospital she was returned to Evin Prison, a decision which was condemned by UN experts who stated that it was ‘unfathomable that the Iranian authorities would return Ms. Sotoudeh to prison where she is at heightened risk of COVID-19, as well as with her serious heart condition.’ On 11th September 2020, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights called for Sotoudeh’s release and further reported on reprisals against her daughter, Mehraveh Khandan, who was arrested at her home by five security guards on 18th August 2020 in apparent retaliation against her mother’s hunger strike. She was not informed of the reasons for her arrest and was subsequently charged with physically assaulting a woman security officer, before being released on bail.

On 23rd September 2020, The Guardian newspaper reported on coordinated diplomatic efforts by France, Germany and the UK in calling for an end to Iran’s detention of dual nationals and its treatment of political prisoners. According to The Guardian, this is the first coordinated move by the three countries on Iranian human rights abuses. It is thought that the ongoing judicial harassment of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe may have played a role in accelerating the coordination of these diplomatic efforts. On 22nd September 2020, Revolutionary Guards Officers visited Zaghari-Ratcliffe at her parents’ home, where she remains under house arrest awaiting the date of a second trial. The officers falsely accused her of breaking the conditions of her temporary release from prison by tampering with the tag with which she was fitted upon release. In the week before this incident, Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s second trial on recent and undisclosed fresh charges, was postponed without explanation. The only information provided to her lawyer by the prosecutor’s office was that Zaghari-Ratcliffe would be asked to come to court in the next few days to be informed of what would happen next.

Separately, detained human rights defender Atena Daemi was scheduled to be released on 4th June 2020 after serving five years in prison. However, in two other trials, she was sentenced to a total of five years in prison and 74 lashes after the reopening of malicious files by the Intelligence Organisation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards. She is appealing a sentence of two years and one month in prison issued in July 2020 for "disturbing order" and "propaganda against the state", charges laid against her while in prison, according to the Centre for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).

Association

Freedom of association is strictly controlled by the authorities, despite conditional constitutional protection of this right. Organisations whose activities are considered uncontroversial and non-political – such as those providing services to alleviate poverty – are generally allowed to operate freely.

Freedom of association is strictly controlled by the authorities, despite conditional constitutional protection of this right. Organisations whose activities are considered uncontroversial and non-political – such as those providing services to alleviate poverty – are generally allowed to operate freely. However, other organisations, in particular those which work on civil and political rights, routinely face threats and intimidation, the imposition of arbitrary and unreasonable requirements, raids and shut-downs, and the arbitrary arrest and detention of members. Independent labour unions are outlawed.

Peaceful Assembly

While the constitution specifies that assemblies may be held where they are not “detrimental to the fundamental principle of Islam,” the reality is that only assemblies sanctioned by the government are allowed to take place.

While the constitution specifies that assemblies may be held where they are not “detrimental to the fundamental principle of Islam,” the reality is that only assemblies sanctioned by the government are allowed to take place. Those which are considered to be anti-regime, or express dissenting views, are dispersed and organizers and participants detained. For example, on 22 July 2015, authorities arrested dozens of teachers who planned a demonstration in front of the parliament building in Capital, Tehran, to protest the recent arrest of their colleagues involved in union activities. All of the demonstrators were eventually released without charge.

Expression

Iran is one of the most censored countries in the world. Criticism of the system of government, its members and institutions, as well as the supreme leader and religion, are not tolerated. Both traditional press and the internet are tightly censored, and authorities exercise control over content and reporting.

Iran is one of the most censored countries in the world. Criticism of the system of government, its members and institutions, as well as the supreme leader and religion, are not tolerated. Both traditional press and the internet are tightly censored, and authorities exercise control over content and reporting. Media outlets which fall foul of the Government of Iran may be closed or have their publishing licenses suspended. The government also uses mass and arbitrary detention to silence dissent. 19 journalists were jailed in 2015, making Iran the seventh worst jailer of journalists in the world. They were prosecuted primarily on national security charges such as "espionage," "acting against national security," and "cooperation with foreign embassies", as well as for crimes such as “insulting Islam”, or “spreading propaganda”. In recent years, the government has targeted online activity, blocking scores of websites and arresting and imprisoning bloggers and individuals on the basis of their online expression.