Ms. Negin Sheikholeslami, arrested and imprisoned arbitrarily

Re: Ms. Negin Sheikholeslami, arrested and imprisoned arbitrarily; Mr. Yasser Goli, sentenced to 15 years in prison; and Ms. Esha Momeni, charged with “propaganda against the State” and released on high bail

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

From: Tina Parbhakar, Iran Monitor of LRWC

Date: 2008-11-17

LRWC is witnessing an escalating pattern of abuse of executive authority when it comes to Kurdish and women’s rights advocates. We have received information that Ms. Negin Sheikholeslami, the founder and Director of the women’s rights NGO Azar Mehr, and Mr. Yasser Goli, the former secretary of the Kurdish Students Democratic Union of Iran, have been arrested and imprisoned. Furthermore, although the student researcher Ms. Esha Momeni has been released, she is still under charges and was forced to pay extremely high amounts of bail. These incidents precede the recent news of yet another high bail in the case of Mr. Youssef Azizi Bani-Torof and follow news of arbitrary imprisonments of Mr. Mohamed Kaboudvand and Ms. Hana Abdi, which we wrote to you about earlier this year.

Ms. Sheikholeslami was arrested in her home in Tehran on October 4, 2008 and is likely to be detained in Section 209 of Evin Prison, which is controlled by the Ministry of Intelligence. No charges have been revealed. We are aware that it is likely that she and others are simply being held to prevent their peaceful actions on November 25, which is the UN Day for Elimination of Violence against Women. We are especially concerned that she is at risk of torture or other ill-treatment, particularly as she needs medical attention for her respiratory problems and is still in the process of recovery from a recent heart surgery, in October. She has been twice previously arrested and released after a few months, which is a very disturbing approach to regulating citizen activities (in February 2001 for demonstrating in front of the Tehran UN office and in January 2002 for no reason, given her ongoing professional activities and her status as Kurdish).

Mr. Goli, meanwhile, was recently arrested and sentenced by the second branch of the Revolutionary Court in Sanandaj to 15 years in prison on November 6, 2008. The charges are having contacts with “illegal Kurdish organisations” under Article 168 of the Islamic Penal Code and he remains detained in a prison in Kurdistan. His lawyer will attempt to appeal this sentence, which is yet another example of the ongoing harsh repression of Iranian citizens. Mr. Goli was barred from finishing his Master’s Degree at Islamic Azad University and first arrested on October 17, 2007. He had been in the custody of the Intelligence Office of Sanandaj for 3 months, without visitation, when he was transferred to Central Prison of Sanandaj. Of particular concern, he suffers from a heart ailment and it is suspected he has acquired tuberculosis in prison as well. It is also noted that family requests to better his conditions were torn up by the lead prosecutor. Furthermore, Mr. Goli’s father and mother have been arrested at different points during the last two years for “acting against national security” in trying to pursue their son’s case, with a typically high bail placed on their individual release. Subsequently, members of Mr. Goli’s family have been barred from entering the Revolutionary Court.

Ms. Momeni had been detained without reason, in solitary confinement in Evin Prison, since October 15. She was released on a high bail on November 10, yet the continuation of post-arrest charges is similar to the case of Mr. Kaboudvand in 2007, among others. Meeting the bail request has put the family home at stake, which is clearly a disproportionate and unlawful penalty for seeking freedom. A California State University-Northridge graduate student who is working on a project on the women’s movement in Iran, she was arrested for an alleged traffic violation. Oddly, this may now become, according to the Deputy General Prosecutor of Tehran, Hasan Hadid, a charge of “propaganda against the state.” Ms. Shirin Ebadi reports that Ms. Momeni’s attorney has constantly been denied visits to his client and have not allowed him to look at her case files, which is clearly illegal.

LRWC continues to monitor the status of specific human rights defenders and remains appalled by the clamp-down on Kurdish peoples’ and women’s peaceful activities. The abuse of public power through arbitrary and exorbitant bails has become systematic and undeniable.
We also note the criminalization of individuals by association and their restriction from travelling outside of Iran. Women working with Ms. Momeni in Change for Equality on the One Million Signatures Campaign have also been jailed recently, namely, Ms. Ronak Safarzadeh and Ms. Zeynab Beyezidi. Furthermore Ms. Momeni’s passport and travel papers have not yet been returned, similar to Ms. Haleh Esfandiari and Ms. Mehrnoushe Solouki. Perhaps you believe otherwise, but such arbitrary actions will only incite women to fight for their rights harder.

Amnesty International, Radio Farda and other sources note strict censorship of the Iranian press. They also note the arrests of Kurdish journalists since unrest broke out in the Kurdish areas of Iran in July 2005 and was violently suppressed by the authorities. Meanwhile, the 2008 Annual Report by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders details the difficult situations, including detentions, of campaigning women in the last year and the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders recalls that over 100 women have been arrested, interrogated, or sentenced in the past 2 years with over 1 million Euros raised by imprisonment and the extraction of bails for release. Also be aware that the silencing of youth and students through invoking fear in their families and threatening disciplinary measures, such as suspension and criminal prosecution, will not meet the growing need to involve them in decision-making.

Your government’s actions towards citizens such as Ms. Sheikholeslami, Mr. Goli & Ms. Momeni are contrary to both international and Iranian law. The treatment 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.”
Considering both Ms. Sheikholeslami and Mr. Goli’s health conditions, we bring to your attention the minimum standards binding UN member states to provide prisoners with medical treatment and transfer them to a medical facility outside the prison so as to ensure the involvement of competent medical specialists, as approved by the Economic and Social Council. The UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, entitles prisoners to effective medical attention and treatment. Article 22 (2) provides,
2) Sick prisoners who require specialist treatment shall be transferred to specialized institutions or to civil hospitals. Where hospital facilities are provided in an institution, their equipment, furnishings and pharmaceutical supplies shall be proper for the medical care and treatment of sick prisoners, and there shall be a staff of suitable trained officers.
The duty to ensure effective medical treatment is part of Iran’s binding obligation to protect Ms. Sheikholeslami and Mr. Goli’s right to life guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 3. The arrests and sentencing are thus also in contravention of the Iranian Constitution, Article 22, which states,
“The dignity, life, property, rights, residence, and occupation of the individual are inviolate, except in cases sanctioned by law.”
Additional applicable portions of the Iranian Constitution are the following:
Article 19, which states,
“All people of Iran, whatever the ethnic group or tribe to which they belong, enjoy equal rights; and color, race, language, and the like, do not bestow any privilege.”
Article 20, which states,
“All citizens of the country, both men and women, equally enjoy the protection of the law and enjoy all human, political, economic, social, and cultural rights, in conformity with Islamic criteria.”
Article 32, which states,
“No one may be arrested except by the order and in accordance with the procedure laid down by law. In case of arrest, charges with the reasons for accusation must, without delay, be communicated and explained to the accused in writing, and a provisional dossier must be forwarded to the competent judicial authorities…The violation of this article will be liable to punishment in accordance with the law.”
Furthermore, if freedom of assembly is to be limited only when detrimental to the “fundamental principles of Islam,” as per Article 27, the fundamental belief in human accountability, on the basis of the possession of free will, must be taken into account. Clearly it is being promoted by Kurdish, female and student citizens during peaceful protests, whilst State actions to restrict these activities are clearly contrary to this basic religious and good governance tenet.

Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (LRWC) joins other international groups to demand that the arbitrary arrest, prosecution and release on arbitrary conditions come to a close. Although the situation has progressively worsened for the Kurdish people, who seek friendly relations with other Iranians and meaningful participation in Iranian political life; women, who seek to enhance their communities as equal partners with men; and students, who seek to develop and interpret their lives in innovative and inclusive ways, we still urge you to provide a response.

LRWC calls on Iran to take the actions required by law to:
1. ensure that adequate medical treatment is provided immediately to Ms. Sheikholeslame and Mr. Goli; and,
2. ensure the release from custody of Mr. Goli; and,
3. protect the family of Mr. Goli from psychological and physical threats; and,
4. ensure that Ms. Momeni is freed of charges and from exorbitant bail; and,
5. ensure fair trials and appeals before independent and impartial tribunals for all three people; and,
6. ensure the withdrawal of arbitrary charges; and,
7. prohibit agents of the state from acts of harassment against human rights defenders including malicious prosecutions and the orders of biased tribunals or judges.

We thank you in advance for your response which can be communicated by email, fax or mail.