Dr. Shirin Ebari & Ms. Jinus Sobhai – Lawyer & Administrative Assistant

Re: Dr. Shirin Ebari & Ms. Jinus Sobhai – Lawyer & Administrative Assistant

To: His Excellency Ayatollah Sayed Ali Khamenei, leader of the Islamic Republic, and others

From: Tina Parbhakar, Iran Monitor of LRWC

Date: 2009-01-23

Lawyers Rights Watch Canada (LRWC) has received information that Dr. Shirin Ebadi is facing an escalated persecution campaign, which threatens her safety. As a part of this increased harassment, Ms. Jinus Sobhani, the administrative assistant for the Defenders of Human Rights Centre and the Centre for the Mine Cleanup Project, organizations founded by Dr. Ebadi and arbitrarily closed down at the end of December 2008, has been arrested. It is also notable that Ms. Sobhani was one of six Baha’is arrested in Tehran on the same day, and that the pervasive harassment of Baha’is by the Iranian government has been noted domestically and internationally.

On January 14, 2009, the six (who included Mr. Shahrokh Taefi, Mr. Didar Raoufi, Mr. Payam Aghsani and Mr. Aziz Samandari) were arrested after government security agents raided the homes of at least eleven Baha’is, during which they also confiscated books, computers and photographs. Baha’is face direct intimidation and questioning by authorities, searches of their homes and businesses for Baha’i books and other items, court proceedings accusing them of propaganda “for the benefit of the Bahaist sect,” harassment of their school-aged children including expulsion, a prohibition from attending university, denial of work opportunities, evictions from places of business and confiscation of property, physical assaults to drive Bahai’is out of towns and villages, desecration of cemeteries, dissemination often over official news media of misinformation about the faith and incitement of hatred against them. Ms. Sobhani, it appears, was primarily arrested for her faith, although her connection with Dr. Ebadi’s work points to the government’s intent to stifle any expression of the importance of religious freedom and human rights. No arrest or search warrant was presented to Ms. Sobhani prior to the search and seizure of her personal belongings and those of her husband and no information is currently available about her whereabouts and place of detention.

On considering this arbitrary arrest as more evidence of the determination of Iranian authorities to crackdown on civil society, we recall the recent defamation and legal harassment of Dr. Ebadi. A violent demonstration was held outside of her home in Tehran on January 1, 2009, of approximately 150 people. They chanted death threats against her, tore down the sign to her law office, and marked the building with graffiti. This demonstration was the third time in eleven days that Iranian authorities or hard-line groups had targeted Dr. Ebadi, one of the previous incidents involving Iranian authorities raiding her office.

We are aware that this mob violence is directly linked to intensified government persecution due to her contact with UN officials who were compiling a report on human rights in Iran. The report was released in October 2008 and has contributed to a critical UN General Assembly resolution on Iran. In particular, newspapers and websites close to the Iranian government have been criticizing Dr. Ebadi for months and have been calling for her prosecution for legitimate interactions with UN officials – what they refer to as “transferring or selling information to foreigners.” These continued effort to interfere with Dr. Ebadi’s ongoing work in gender equality, democracy and human rights has even drawn the attention of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who has called for immediate measures to prevent any further harassment. Furthermore, your government’s actions towards citizens such as Dr. Ebadi and Ms. Sobhani are contrary to both international and Iranian law.

The treatment of Dr. Ebadi shows that the government of Iran has not met its affirmative obligation to protect rights advocates as stated in the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, 1998, whereby states “shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of [human rights defenders] against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary actions” as a consequence of their legitimate efforts to promote human rights.

The treatment of Ms. Sobhani is in contravention of Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Section 1, which states,

“Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention. No one shall be deprived of his liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedure as are established by law.”

The actions are also in contravention of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Article 22, which states,

“The dignity, life, property, rights, residence, and occupation of the individual are inviolate, except in cases sanctioned by law.”

LRWC joins other international groups to demand:

  • A guarantee of both women’s physical and psychological integrity;
  • Prompt actions to locate Ms. Sobhani, make public her whereabouts, and ensure her immediate release;
  • A halt to any kind of harassment against members of the Defenders of Human Rights Centre and the Centre for the Mine Cleanup Project and more generally against human rights defenders in Iran;
  • The reopening of Defenders of Human Rights Centre and the Centre for the Mine Cleanup Project as they were subjected to an arbitrary closure;
  • More generally, conformity with the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as other human rights instruments ratified by Iran.

Please write to LRWC by mail, e-mail or fax to advise of us of the actions taken by your government to ensure that Dr. Ebadi & Ms. Sobhani are, in all circumstances, safe, are not harassed and are granted fair and impartial treatment and processes, such that any arbitrary charges are dropped.

In solidarity with Iranian women, Iranian human rights defenders, and Iranians of diverse faiths.