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18 prominent human rights lawyers sign letter on legal miscarriage of justice for seven former Bahá’í leaders

18 of the country’s leading human rights jurists have today signed a letter to the editor of the Telegraph on the miscarriage of justice during the trial and sentencing of the seven former leaders of the Bahá’í community in Iran. Tried and convicted in 2008 in proceedings that violated Iranian and international law, they are currently serving 20 year prison sentences for their religious beliefs.

Their letter coincides with a seminar held on 11 May 2013 at the Law Society of England and Wales, co-hosted by the Bar Human Rights Committee, on the trial of the seven.

Published in the Telegraph, 8 May 2013.

SIR – Five years ago this month, seven former leaders of the Bahá’í community in Iran were imprisoned for their beliefs. This violated national and international laws as well as shariah norms.

The seven – Mrs Mahvash Sabet,
Mr Behrouz Tavakkoli, Mr Vahid Tizfahm, Mrs Fariba Kamalabadi, Mr Jamaloddin Khanjani, Mr Afif Naeimi and Mr Saeid Rezaie – were arrested following coordinated raids on their homes in 2008. The fatuous nature of their alleged crimes, which included “spreading corruption on earth” and collaboration with the “tyrannical Quds-occupying regime” (Israel), is self-evident.

The charges against them were first heard in the media rather than in court, nine months after their detention. An arrest warrant was issued 10 months after they were arrested. To this day, they have not been presented with formal charges or a judgment in writing, in clear violation of the Iranian constitution.

The seven Bahá’ís were purportedly “tried” in 2010 in proceedings that can be barely described as a “trial”, and were each sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Lawyers brave enough to represent Bahá’ís – including the Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi – have themselves become victims of the Iranian regime and been forced into exile. Others, such as Nasrin Sotoudeh and Abdolfattah Soltani, are now serving prison sentences on similarly spurious allegations.

Iranian authorities often claim to be champions of justice, equality and fairness. It is time for them to honour these principles, release the seven Bahá’í leaders and restore the rule of law in Iran.

Sir Desmond de Silva QC Michael Birnbaum QC Cherie Booth CBE QC Kirsty Brimelow QC Professor John Cooper QC Edward Fitzgerald QC

Dr Nazila Ghanea
Lord Gifford QC
Lord Lester of Herne Hill QC
Lord Macdonald of River Glaven QC Michael Mansfield QC
Professor Rachel Murray
Sir Geoffrey Nice QC
Professor Michael O’Flaherty Professor Javaid Rehman
Geoffrey Robertson QC
Professor Philippe Sands QC Professor Dan Sarooshi

Increasing violence against Iranian Bahá’ís documented in new report

GENEVA — In a report released last week, the Baha’i International Community documents hundreds of incidents of torture, physical assault, arson, vandalism, cemetery desecration and the abuse of schoolchildren directed against the Iranian Baha’i community since 2005 – all carried out with utter impunity.

“The entire situation puts the Baha’is in an impossible position because they must ask for justice and protection from the same authorities who are systematically inciting hatred against them and from a judicial system that treats virtually every Baha’i who is arrested as an enemy of the state,” said Diane Ala’i, the Baha’i International Community’s representative to the United Nations in Geneva.”This report shows that attacks on Baha’is are engineered by government agents and actively encouraged by the authorities and the Muslim clergy in Iran – and that attackers are well aware that they will go unpunished,” added Ms. Ala’i.

Titled “Violence with Impunity: Acts of aggression against Iran’s Baha’i community,” the 45-page report provides case studies and statistics that document a rising tide of violence against Baha’is – and the complete absence of prosecution for attackers.

Focusing on the seven year period from 2005-2012, the report says there have been at least 52 cases where Baha’is have been tortured or held in solitary confinement while in detention. It likewise documents another 52 incidents where Baha’is have been physically assaulted – sometimes at the hands of officials and sometimes at the hands of plainclothes or unidentified attackers.

The report also describes some 49 acts of arson against Baha’i homes and shops, and at least 42 incidents of cemetery desecration. There have also been at least 30 cases of vandalism directed against Baha’i properties, more than 200 instances of threats made against Baha’is, and some 300 incidents of abuse directed against Baha’i schoolchildren.

“Many of the attacks documented in the report – such as the cases of torture or assault during arrests and imprisonment – are undertaken directly by government agents,” said Ms. Ala’i. “Other attacks, such as arson, cemetery desecration, and vandalism, often come in the middle of the night, by unidentified individuals.

“But in all cases, these violators need to be brought to justice, as is required by the international laws to which Iran is a party. The government’s unwillingness to prosecute for these crimes, then, is yet another element in their overall campaign of religious persecution against the Baha’i minority,” said Ms. Ala’i.

Download the full report from the Bahá’í International Community.

Parliamentary Seminar on access to education for Bahá’ís in Iran

A panel of human rights experts addressed a seminar held on 18 December at the House of Commons, exploring the issue of access to education in Iran.

The Iranian government’s policy of excluding those it deems “ideologically unsound” from higher education is eroding progress made in women’s access to secondary education, creating significant obstacles for minorities, and undermining academic freedom.

Those were among the concerns expressed at a seminar, held at the UK parliament, by Ahmed Shaheed – the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran.

Dr Ahmed Shaheed, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran speaking in Parliament

Dr Ahmed Shaheed, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran speaking in Parliament

Stressing the importance of global scrutiny of Iran on its human rights record, Dr. Shaheed noted that the “international community has an indispensable role to play in continuing to support the voices of Iranian citizens that continue to demand that the right to education become a reality for all.”

The seminar, held on 18 December, was organised by the UK parliament’s All Party Parliamentary Friends of the Baha’is Group and chaired by Nic Dakin, member of parliament for Scunthorpe.

Seminar on access to education in Iran at the House of Commons

Seminar on access to education in Iran at the House of Commons

Among other contributors to the discussion was Scott Sheeran, Director of the Human Rights in Iran unit at the University of Essex Human Rights Center. He explored the complex connections that link the right to education to other rights, such as the rights of minorities, non-discrimination and equality before the law, and freedoms of expression, religion and belief.

Daniel Wheatley of the UK Baha’i community shared details of the lengths to which Iran’s government has gone to exclude Baha’is from access to higher education, while Tahirih Danesh – an independent researcher on women’s rights – paid tribute to imprisoned human rights lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh.


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