Iran Must Revoke Harsh Sentences Against Human Rights Defenders
Serious violations of the fundamental rights of women human rights defenders are continuing unabated in Iran, says CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation.
In the latest instance, Mansoureh Behkish was sentenced to four and a half years in jail for her human rights work on 3 April 2012. Mansoureh was sentenced to four years for colluding against the Republic through the Mourning Mothers Group and an additional six months for instigating propaganda against the government.
The Mourning Mothers Group, of which Mansoureh is a member, campaigns against unlawful killings, arrests, torture and enforced disappearances of Iranians. The group is composed of women whose children have been murdered, detained or disappeared in Iran since June 2009, and also includes family members of victims of serious human rights violations perpetuated by the Iranian government.
Mansoureh has long been subjected to arbitrary arrest and interrogation stemming from her campaigning work against violations of the rights of Iranians. She was first arrested in August 2009 and detained and interrogated at the notorious Evin Prison for three days. She was re-arrested on 11 June 2011 and released on 8 July. Her passport was also confiscated and a travel ban imposed to prevent her carrying out legitimate human rights activities. Her trial began on 24 December 2011 and she was notified by the Revolutionary Court in Tehran of her sentencing on 4 April 2012. She is in the process of lodging an appeal against the sentence.
“The Iranian government is waging a systematic campaign to silence civil society and discourage Iranians from engaging on human rights issues,” says David Kode, Policy and Advocacy Officer at CIVICUS. “The sentencing of Mansoureh Behkish is motivated solely by her legitimate activities as a human rights defender, and is in clear violation of Iran’s international law commitments.”
Iran continues to imprison numerous human rights defenders for acts of dissent, making it one of the most difficult places for civil society to operate. Arbitrary arrests and judicial harassment resulting in harsh prison sentences for exercising basic democratic freedoms are rife. A critical mass of human rights defenders has had to flee Iran to avoid persecution.
Recently, supporters of the Mourning Mothers Group Leyla Sefollahi and Jila Karamzadeh-Makvandi were handed two-year jail terms for “acting against national security.” Human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotendeh, who is widely known for her work in defending juveniles facing the death penalty and campaigning for prisoners of conscience, is herself serving an 11-year sentence for “threatening the security of the state.”
CIVICUS urges Iran to immediately and unconditionally free all prisoners of conscience, whose continued incarceration is a blight on Iran’s human rights record.
CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation is a global movement of civil society dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society across the world.