August 15, 2004

Human rights defenders in Iran continue to suffer harassment



For the first time in four years AI was allowed to travel to Iran in June. As part of the EU-Iran Human Rights Dialogue , AI joined academics and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to discuss iran's implementation of international human rights standards. Following the meeting, the EU expressed concerns about human rights in Iran, though the government of Iran denied that there was a serious problem.

While numerous NGOs have emerged in iran in recent years,most have been affiliated to apoliticl body or powerful social force. However One independent non-political NGO, the Society for the Defence of the Rights of Prisoners (SDRP), was granted permanent permission to operate in july.

The SDRP works to protectdstainees and promote prison reform it has established a small fund to provide free legal advice to prisoners and It supports the families of detainees.
Fears for the future

Even though the SDRP was recently granted a licence , Its members fear that political
Pressure could result in its slosure at any time.

The founders of the SDRP include former prisoners of consciences Emaddedin Baqi (pictured), and Mohammad Hassan Alipour, both journalists; a former parliamentary candidate and deputy along with a trained cleric. Its spokesperson is Ferideh Gheyrat (F), a lawyer. Emaddedin Baqi was in prison between 2000 and 2003 in connection with articles that questioned the place of the death penalty in Iranian society.

Since his release from prison in 2003, Emaddedin Baqi has appeared in court around six times, facing politically motivated complaints or charges based on vaguely worded provisions relating to defamation and insult. On 6 August, Emaddedin Baqi appeared once again in court, facing complaints about his book, “The Tragedy of Democracy in Iran”, for which he had already been tried. Citing the lack of a jury in the court – a requirement for press related cases – Emaddedin Baqi termed the hearing illegitimate and stated that he would not appear in court or defend the case.

In August he wrote an article about a man who had been forgotten about by guards in a prison while he was hanging by his wrists. This resulted in torn nerves in the man’s hands and their amputation. This article, too, on prison reform, has now been the subject of official complaint, lodged against him in his capacity as head of the SDRP.

Al welcomes the decision by the Ministry of the Interior in granting a license to the SDRP, Amnesty International remains concerned that the vague charges faced by Emaddedin Baqi relate to his human rights work, promoting awareness of human rights issues in the press. His wrongful and arbitrary imprisonment would signal a concerted attack on the emerging community of independent human rights defenders in Iran.

AI is urging the authorities to support the growth of the independent NGO community in Iran. AI supports, in particular, the work of human rights defenders such as Emaddedin Baqi and the SDRP. They bring hope and courage to prisoners whose rights may have been violated, as they work, alongside other human rights defenders, to bring about what Emaddedin Baqi calls the “millimetre revolution” in the implementation of human rights standards in Iran.
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