May 18, 2007

Requesting from the world human rights communities regarding the 75 milion dollars budget by the US

Louise Arbour
The High Commissioner for Human Rights
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
The United Nations

Irene Khan
Secretary General
Amnesty International

Kenneth Roth
Executive Director
Human Rights Watch

Paul English
Executive Director
Prison Reform International

Executive Director
Reporters without Borders

Christina M. Storm
Lawyers without Borders

Norman L. Reimer
Executive Director
National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers

Michel Taube
Le President
Ensemble Contre la Peine de Mort

Michel Forst
Secrétaire Général-CNCDH

Gabriel Mouesca
President of observatoire international des prisons(OIP)

May 18, 2007

Dear Colleagues and Human Rights Activists,

We are all sensitive to violations of human rights by governments and consider it our duty to react to these violations even if in countries such as Iran these reactions have costs. At the same time, we are expected not to be indifferent to new kinds of human rights violations or outright endangerment of human rights activists.

In recent years, the government of the United States has announced that it has allocated a yearly budget for the support of civil society, democracy, and human rights in Iran. This so-called “democracy fund” is approved by the United States Congress and extensive media coverage of this financial endeavor has been encouraged.

Given the existence of longstanding hostilities between the governments of Iran and the United States, the government of Iran has shown extreme sensitivity to the idea of individuals or groups receiving funds to engage in activities that, in the public words of at least some American officials, is intended for an eventual “regime change” in Iran. I am sure the United States government would show similar sensitivity if it was revealed that there were individuals or organizations in the United States that were receiving funds from hostile groups or countries intent on creating instability in that country.

The allocation of yearly funds has led to the Iranian government’s widespread concern and suspicion towards civil society organizations and human rights activists, clearly exacerbating in significant ways pressures on them and the number of arrests. Undoubtedly, not all these pressures and arrests are reflective of recently developed government concerns and suspicions. Forces that are against liberty also use the U.S. budget allocation as a pretext or excuse to legitimize their opposition to civil liberties and to discredit their critics.

In such an atmosphere, individuals and organizations that are more active and well-known are easier to spot and hence easier to threaten. In the past two years, we have been witness to numerous accusations hurled against civil society institutions such as the Society for Defending Prisoner’s Rights. Such organizations have also faced investigation and even closure of their offices. In the past 14 months, for instance, I have been summoned by the Iranian judiciary or intelligence organizations 7 times but have not publicized the matter in order to avoid political tensions. I think it time to change course and act in different ways.

I would like to state categorically that it is neither wise nor morally justifiable for the United States to continue its path, without due respect or concern for the specific harm and harassment the so-called democracy fund entails for human rights activists in Iran. It is not right for independent individuals and institutions inside Iran to pay the price for allocated funds that the United States government spends on broadcasting from the United States into Iran or for the activities of exiled Iranian groups that cooperate with various American organizations.

This is why I hereby make a plea to you and your respected organizations to insist that the United States government change its ways or, in case of its insistence on allocating a yearly budget, make public and transparent the exact amount and recipients (individuals and groups) of these funds. In this way, problems are reduced for independent democracy and human rights activists in Iran. In addition, the United States government can no longer be accused of, willingly or unwillingly, being complicit with the suppressive forces in Iran which have been using the so-called democracy fund as an excuse to harass civil society activists.

I thank you in advance for your careful attention to this urgent matter and hope that the necessary steps are taken as soon as possible to correct the wrong approach taken by the government of the United States and to promote transparency.

Respectfully yours,
Emaddeddin Baghi
Defending Prisoners’ Rights Society
Tehran, Iran

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