UN Human Rights Chief Expresses Serious Concerns
19 June 2009
UN human rights chief concerned about manner of arrests, and possible use of excessive force in Iran
GENEVA – The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said Friday she is concerned about reports of an increasing number of arrests, which may not be in conformity with the law, and the possible illegal use of excessive force and acts of violence by some militia members in the aftermath of the recent presidential elections held in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
“The legal basis of the arrests that have been taking place, especially those of human rights defenders and political activists, is not clear,” Pillay said. “What are the grounds for the arrests? Have proper warrants been issued in accordance with Iranian law? Why have some of those who have been arrested been denied access to lawyers and members of their families? And why is the whereabouts of others unknown? These are all troubling questions, and I urge the Iranian authorities to ensure that due process is followed, since to do otherwise may fan the feelings of injustice.”
The High Commissioner noted that freedom of expression and freedom of assembly were fundamental human rights, and commended the largely peaceful and dignified conduct of the huge demonstrations that have been taking place in the Iranian capital, Teheran.
Pillay expressed particular concern about reported acts of violence by members of the Basij militia, which may also be in contravention of international and Iranian national law. “I strongly urge the authorities to ensure that official and semi-official forces act strictly in accordance with the law,” she said. “It is the responsibility of the government to ensure that militia members and regular law enforcement agencies do not resort to illegal acts of violence. If they are perceived to be acting outside the law, it could provoke a serious deterioration in the security situation, which would be a great tragedy and is in nobody’s interests.”
The High Commissioner reminded the Iranian authorities of their international obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states that ‘no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention’ (Article 9), ‘everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression’ (Article 19), and ‘the right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized’ (Article 21).
18 June 2009
Human rights experts gravely concerned at killings and arrests in Iran
GENEVA – Five independent United Nations experts* have voiced their grave concern about the use of excessive police force, arbitrary arrests and killings during the past week in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This also seriously hampers freedom of expression and assembly and the situation of human rights defenders in the country.
Following the recent presidential elections, tens of thousands of opposition supporters have taken to the streets of Tehran and other cities throughout the Islamic Republic of Iran. While protests have been largely peaceful, violent clashes with security forces have resulted in the death, injury and arrest of numerous individuals. In addition there have been reported attacks against students and others who may have contested the election results.
“We are gravely concerned that the recent arrests and the use of excessive police force against opposition supporters may be a direct attempt to stifle freedom of assembly and expression in the country”, said Frank La Rue, Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression. He had similar concerns about reports that access to online news services and social networking internet sites have been blocked since the election results were announced.
“Human rights defenders are often the first target in situations as this one, but each State has a prime responsibility and duty to protect them against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action” stressed Margaret Sekaggya, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.
“It is the Government’s obligation to take all necessary measures to guarantee the right of everyone not to be deprived arbitrarily of their liberty and to have fair proceedings before an independent and impartial tribunal”, highlighted Manuela Carmena Castrillo, the Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.
With regard to the reported killings, Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, emphasized that “law enforcement officials should apply non-violent means before resorting to the use of force and firearms”. The Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Manfred Nowak, recalled that “excessive violence may constitute ill treatment which contravenes international human rights law”.
The five human rights experts strongly urge the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to refrain from using excessive force and arbitrary detentions and to fully guarantee freedom of expression and assembly throughout the country.
*The five human rights experts are Manuela Carmena Castrillo, Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Frank La Rue, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Manfred Nowak, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Margaret Sekaggya, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.