JEDDAH: Amnesty International has called on the international community, and in particular the EU, to speak out against the “outrageous treatment” of human rights activists in Iran.
In a damning report published on Wednesday, the rights group said Iran’s judicial and security bodies have waged a vicious crackdown on human rights defenders since Hassan Rouhani became president in 2013, demonizing and imprisoning activists.
The report, titled “Caught in a web of repression: Iran’s human rights defenders under attack,” details how scores of activists — often labeled “foreign agents” and “traitors” by state media — have been prosecuted and jailed on spurious “national security” charges.
“It is a bitter irony that as the Iranian authorities boast about their increased engagement with the UN and the EU, particularly in the aftermath of the nuclear deal, human rights defenders who have made contact with these same institutions are being treated as criminals,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty’s research and advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa.
“Instead of appeasing Iranian officials, the EU should forcefully call for the immediate and unconditional release of all those jailed for their peaceful human rights activism and for an end to the misuse of the justice system to silence activists.”
Some activists, the report said, have been sentenced to more than 10 years behind bars for simple acts such as being in contact with the UN, EU or human rights organizations including Amnesty.
The report highlights 45 cases, including anti-death penalty campaigners, women’s rights activists, trade unionists, minority rights activists, human rights lawyers, and activists seeking truth, justice and reparation for mass extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances in the 1980s.
“Rather than propagating the dangerous myth that human rights defenders pose a threat to national security, the Iranian authorities should focus on addressing the legitimate concerns they raise. These are people who have risked everything to build a more humane and just society — it is appalling that they are so viciously punished for their bravery,” said Luther.
Human rights defenders whose cases are featured in the report were invariably convicted after grossly unfair trials before Revolutionary Courts.
According to the report, trials of human rights defenders generally take place in a climate of fear in which their lawyers face a range of abusive measures.
These include attempts by the authorities to arbitrarily restrict them from visiting defendants or communicating with them in private, and delaying their access to court files.