Special Court for Iranians Abroad: Established to Help or to Intimidate?
Iran’s Minister of Justice announced last Wednesday that plans are under way to form a special court for Iranians abroad whose work will begin soon. During an appearance on Sunday at the High Council of Coordination with Iranians Abroad, Morteza Bakhtiari said that the Council has appropriate authorities based on Articles 127 and 128 of Iranian Constitution.
According to Article 127 of the Iranian Constitution, the President can, based on necessity and with the approval of the Cabinet, appoint a special representative or representatives with specific authorities. In such cases, decisions made by such representatives is the same as those made by the President or Cabinet.
Since the Iranian elections a new wave of political emigrations has included Iranian political activists and media members. Referring to political refugees, Morteza Bakhtiari said: “People who do not have political cases inside the country and have merely introduced themselves as political activists to foreign countries in order to receive residency in those countries, will be reviewed. Our general policy is to provide the basis for the return of Iranians to Iran.” Bakhtiari did not elaborate on the purpose and tools used to return political refugees to Iran and what shape the review of these individuals’ cases would take and what guarantees there are for their security inside Iran.
Referring to the Director of Tehran’s Judiciary and the Head of the Revolutionary Courts preparedness in this area, he said judicial and security organizations have representatives on the Council and these representatives will decide on returning political refugees to Iran. Quoting Bakhtiari, Mehr News Agency said that “90% of contacts made by Iranians to outside Iran are of a legal and judicial nature.”
Bakhtiari named “a wave of propaganda by foreign media” as “the main reason for the distance between Iranians abroad and the Iranian government,” and about the economic dimensions of the decision he added: “There are sound laws governing foreign investment in the country and we must use all available capacities to expand investments of Iranians outside Iran.”
Iran’s Minister of Justice also defined the goal of the High Council of Iranians Abroad as strengthening the national identity of Iranians outside Iran and to defend their rights, helping the propagation of Persian calligraphy and language, and easing the participation in national security. The Minister of Justice did not elaborate on how Iranians outside Iran could participate in Iran’s national security.
Special Court for Iranians Abroad: solving immigrants’ problems or threatening and limiting them?
The legal problems of Iranians outside Iran is one of the issues which seem to have been abandoned despite expectations that they would have been addressed much sooner. But considering the timing of this announcement and use of the ambiguous term of “easing participation in national security,” there is pessimism related to the idea. Those who have left Iran, and specifically those who left during the past year because of a lack of political security, observe the Minister of Justice’s statements with pessimism. In fact it is not yet clear whether the Minister of Justice’s statements are aimed at solving the real legal problems of Iranians outside Iran, or if they are heralding a new wave of pressure on critics of Islamic Republic of Iran who are now active outside Iranian borders.
Some political and human rights activists told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that earlier, Iranian judicial authorities had approached Interpol to pursue political and human rights activists, threatening to return them to Iran to face trials through the Interpol. A human rights activist who left Iran during recent months and who is currently residing in Turkey told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran: “About a month after my exit from Iran, six security agents stormed my father’s home, searched the premises and confiscated my personal items, and threatened my family that they would soon be extraditing me through the Interpol. This claim has been conveyed to several other human rights activists through verbal and telephone threats.” This is why some refugees who have recently left the country believe that the said new court has been established to control and exert pressure on Iranians who are politically active.
In order to explain their pessimism, some Iranian refugees who currently live in neighboring countries refer to the lack of security currently present for Iranian refugees. A political and human rights activist who has been living in Kurdistan, Iraq for the past two months told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran: “These threats are quite palpable in Kurdistan, Iraq, and specifically in Erbil and Sulaymaniah. In one specific case, a political prisoner who had been released on bail fled to Iraq about a month ago and government agents confiscated his home whose deed was posted as bail, and as a threat for returning him to Iran, they arrested his brother, threatening him with ten years in prison.”
Individuals mentioned above also reported of other cases where Iranians currently in Iraq have been threatened through telephone calls and email. One of them adds: “The Iranian New Year holidays (March 20-April 2, 2010) gave security forces a chance to send several agents into Kurdistan, Iraq. I only leave my residence at nights and only for dire emergencies, because of insecurity. I know of at least three cases where political activists have been threatened by security officers through telephone calls demanding their return to Iran.”
Recently, following the security organizations’ new scenario for Iran’s human rights activists, and after a widespread maneuver by pro-government media was waged during which some human rights activists were called a “US Cyber Army,” 30 people in detention were faced with this charge, referring to them as the main elements of this network inside the country, claiming that several members of human rights organizations who currently reside in the US have been introduced to the Interpol for further pursuit.