Arrest of Human Rights Defender Seeking Truth About Disappeared Family Members
The Iranian authorities must immediately and unconditionally release a human rights defender arrested from her home last night, who has previously been targeted by the authorities for her peaceful activism, said Amnesty International.
Raheleh Rahemipour has spent years trying to uncover the truth about what happened to her brother and baby niece who were forcibly disappeared while in custody during the early 1980s. She was sentenced to a year in prison earlier this year in connection with these efforts and has been awaiting the outcome of her appeal.
“Raheleh Rahemipour has already been forced to endure the anguish and distress of having her loved ones forcibly disappeared and faces an unjust prison sentence for her efforts to learn their fate. Her arrest provides further evidence of the Iranian authorities’ ruthless determination to intimidate her into silence and prolong her suffering,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.
“Instead of lashing out against aggrieved families searching for their loved ones, the Iranian authorities must meet their legitimate demands for truth and justice.”
Last night three officials arrived at Raheleh Rahemipour’s home in Tehran and presented an arrest warrant from the Office of the Prosecutor in Evin prison. The officials, who are believed to be from the Ministry of Intelligence, did not identify themselves and gave no reason for her arrest, simply saying she was being taken into custody for interrogation. She has not been allowed to have any contact with her lawyer since she was taken.
In February 2017, Raheleh Rahemipour was sentenced to a year in prison for “spreading propaganda against the system” by a Revolutionary Court in Tehran. The court cited as “evidence” her media interviews about the forcible disappearance of her family members and her participation in peaceful gatherings where she held a placard reading “You killed my brother. What did you do with his child?” The UN have previously called for the Iranian authorities to stop their harassment of Raheleh Rahemipour.
Raheleh Rahemipour’s niece, Golrou, was born in Evin prison in April 1984 but was taken away from her mother at just 15 days old apparently to undergo medical tests. The family was subsequently told that she had died but the authorities never provided a death certificate or information about the circumstances of her death or burial.
The baby’s father, Raheleh Rahemipour’s brother, Hossein, was arrested in August 1983 along with his pregnant wife for his affiliation with an opposition political group. Around a year after his arrest his family received a phone call from Evin prison telling them to pick up his personal effects which they understood to mean he had been executed. His body was never returned to the family and no death certificate was ever issued.
Raheleh Rahemipour is among several human rights defenders whose cases were featured in Amnesty International’s recent report Caught in a web of repression, which provides a detailed overview of the crackdown on human rights activism in the country.
Enforced disappearances are crimes under international law. International human rights bodies have recognized that an enforced disappearance may cause such severe mental distress as to breach the family members’ right not to be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.