Human Rights Lawyer: Iran’s Response to Terrorist Attacks Could Lead to Major Rights Abuses
The arrests by Iranian security forces of dozens of suspects with alleged links to the terrorist group that calls itself the Islamic State (IS) could result in extrajudicial retaliatory actions against innocent individuals.
“In every part of the world, anti-terrorism laws could lead to human rights violations,” Iranian human rights lawyer Hossein Raisi, who is now based in Canada, told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).
Two days after the twin terrorist attacks in Tehran on June 7, 2017 that left 18 people dead and 50 others injured, Iran’s Intelligence Ministry issued a statement announcing the arrests of “41 members of the Wahhabi Daesh (IS)” organization in different parts of Iran.
“The terrorist attacks have inevitably generated negative emotions, but it is primarily up to the judiciary to manage them in order to prevent public anger against other ethnicities or followers of other religions and to avoid unfair punishments,” Raisi told CHRI.
“Authorities might close their eyes to torture, arbitrary arrests and long detentions without firm legal foundations,” he added. “Because the attackers in Tehran were Sunnis, it should not turn the fight against terrorism into anti-Sunni actions or lead to public attacks on their Kurdish ethnicity.”
The Ministry of Intelligence has identified at least one of the attackers, Serias Sadeghi, as an Iranian Kurd from the city of Paveh.
“Following a series of sophisticated intelligence operations with the cooperation of some of the families of the terrorists in Kermanshah, Kurdistan, East Azerbaijan and Tehran provinces, 41 members of the Daesh Wahhabi group including operational teams, communication contacts and auxiliary forces were discovered and arrested with internal documents and equipment for terrorist operations before they could carry out any action,” said the Intelligence Ministry in a statement on June 9.
Raisi, who dealt with human rights issues while working as an attorney in Iran, told CHRI that the authorities must prevent fear and anger over the terrorist attacks from resulting in discrimination and persecution against minorities.
“There’s a possibility that some of the 40 or 50 people arrested so far are truly criminals and some of them may not be criminals,” he said. “But calling the suspects terrorists, or members of Daesh (IS) or Wahhabis in advance has created a climate that is a cause for concern.”
“From a legal standpoint, security cases are problematic because suspects are denied legal counsel for one week and then they can only seek help from lawyers approved by the judiciary,” added Raisi.
“The other issue is that the entire process takes place behind closed doors,” he said. “If there was more transparency, the public could be assured that the prosecution was being done fairly and correctly without denying anyone’s rights.”
Raisi told CHRI that justice should not be determined by public opinion and should instead be the result of “the fair judgment of legal experts and by the judiciary’s impartial decisions, free from the influence of public opinion or political and security considerations.”
“One problem is the judiciary’s ambiguous ties to the security establishment,” he said. “The judicial system is influenced by emotions that do not allow justice to be served with careful consideration. This is more so when cases are in the hands of the Revolutionary Court.”
Iran’s judiciary is theoretically independent according to the Constitution, but a pattern of repeated interferences in its activities by the Intelligence Ministry and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has seriously undermined its credibility.
After the terrorist attacks, Hessamoddin Ashena, President Hassan Rouhani’s media adviser, warned against acts of revenge.
“Usually after a terrorist attack,” Ashena tweeted on June 7, “judicial and security officials respond by executing convicted members of that terrorist group.”
“Some of these individuals have received the death penalty, but the verdicts have not been carried out,” he added. “We must be careful because Daesh wants us to react with vengeance so that it could recruit new supporters to keep the wheel of terror turning.”
“Executing them will overshadow the climate of sympathy in the world towards the people of our country,” he added.