ANNI Letter to the Iranian Islamic Human Rights Commission
Mr. Mohammed Hassan Ziaifar
Islamic Human Rights Commission of Iran
North Sohrevardi Street, Gharghavol Alley
Islamic Republic of Iran
Dear Mr. Ziaifar,
We write to you today to express our deep concern regarding the recent closure of the Defenders of Human Rights Center (DHRC) in Tehran on 21 December 2008. According to our sources, at around 3:00pm on that day, right before the DHRC was about to start their event commemorating the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR), police and security officials arrived at the DHRC’s premises and shut down and sealed its offices without a court order. Moreover, according to our sources, these police and security officers also physically assaulted one of the members of DHRC, Mr. Ismaiel Zadeh.
Before police and security officers locked and sealed the offices of the DHRC, they took a video of the premises and also filmed guests who were arriving for the celebration of the 60th Anniversary of the UDHR. They prevented these guests from entering the DHRC’s premises and confiscated the cameras of journalists who were present that day.
Allegedly, the reason for the closure of the offices of DHRC is that it is not currently registered with the government.
We believe that the closure of the offices of the DHRC is inconsistent with Article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states that everyone has the right to freedom of association with others. It is also inconsistent with Article 5 of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, which provides that everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to form, join, and participate in nongovernmental organisations, associations, or groups.
There are indeed allowable restrictions to the freedom of association, but it is a basic principle under international human rights law that procedural formalities for the registration of organisations should not be too burdensome as to amount to a substantive restriction on the right to free association. Restrictions on the right to freedom of association must be clear, precise, unambiguous, and more importantly, should be prescribed by law. These restrictions should never be used to perpetrate repressive practices of the government.
We would like to point out that the DHRC has undertaken to register with the Interior Ministry since its establishment in 2000, and has detailed these efforts to submit all the required documents in its 3rd statement, issued on December 24, 2008. However on September 21, 2006, the head of the Interior Ministry Commission who is responsible for approving the constitution and registration of any group, stated in an interview with the Islamic Republic News Agency that the HRDC is not illegal, and that the delay in issuing its licence is the fault of the Interior Ministry.
Finally we would also like to remind you of the recommendations made in the Concluding Statement of the 13th Annual Meeting of the Asia Pacific Forum (APF) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, wherein it “requested that the Iranian Islamic Human Rights Commission make efforts to protect human rights defenders and promote the registration of such organisations in accordance with the Iranian Constitution and national law.” 1
We therefore strongly encourage the IHRC to abide by international human rights law and the request of the APF and actively facilitate the registration of non‐governmental organisations. We also strongly encourage the IHRC to conduct an investigation into the issue of the closure of the offices of the DHRC, with a view towards helping the organisation re‐open its premises and resume in conducting its activities in promoting and protecting human rights in the country.
We shall be grateful to hear your response on this matter. We look forward to hearing from you soon. We remain committed to engage with you in your work promoting and protecting human rights in Iran.
Asian NGOs Network on National Human Rights Institutions
The following are the members of the Asian NGOs on National Human Rights Institutions (ANNI):
ADVAR – Iran
Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) – Bangladesh
Asian Center for Human Rights (ACHR)
Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
Cambodian League for Promotion and Defence of Human Rights (LICADHO)
Center for Human Rights and Development (CHRD) – Mongolia
Center for Organizing Research and Education (CORE)
Citizens’ Council for Human Rights Japan (CCHRJ) – Japan
Commission for Disappearances and Victims of Violence (KONTRAS) – Indonesia
Defenders of Human Rights Center – Iran
Education and Research Association for Consumer Education (ERA Consumer)- Malaysia
Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor (HKHR) – Hong Kong
Human Rights Organisation of Kurdistan
Indonesian Human Rights Monitor (IMPARSIAL) – Indonesia
Indonesian NGO Coalition for International Human Rights Advocacy (HRWG)-Indonesia
Informal Service Sector Center (INSEC) – Nepal
Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (ELSAM), Indonesia.
International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran
Japan Federation of Bar Associations (JFBA) – Japan
Judicial System Monitoring Program (JSMP) – Timor Leste
Korea House for International Solidarity (KHIS) – Korea.
Law and Society Trust (LST) – Sri Lanka
Lawyers’ League for Liberty (LIBERTAS) – Philippines.
Maldivian Detainees Network (MDN) – Maldives
People’s Watch – India
Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA) – Philippines
Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) – Malaysia
Taiwan Association for Human Rights (TAHR) – Taiwan