November 01, 2009

Message from Emadeddin Baghi, Laureate of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders, 2009.

Message from Emadeddin Baghi, Laureate of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders, 2009.
Monday 2 Nov 2009
Human beings are members of a whole,
In creation of one essence and soul.
If one member is afflicted with pain,
Other members uneasy will remain.
If you have no sympathy for human pain,
The name of human you cannot retain.
From a poem by the Persian poet Sa'adi 1210-1290

Ladies and Gentlemen,‎
These lines are from Sa'adi, a renowned Persian Poet, and grace the entrance of the UN in New York. Your ceremony is the manifestation of such classic and deep desire. This day for me is an historic event, but unfortunately I cannot be there in person to receive this honor because I am being denied a passport which would allow me to leave this huge prison. For this reason I have to speak with you through this message.
Despite the fact that there is a lot to say about the challenges of human rights in the world and its solutions, I want to emphasize just on four points here:
1- Human rights organizations have been to be more effective in the political arena. Power and its organs have powerful facilities. So the human rights organizations must use their powerful forces against those who abuse political power. But because the professional human rights activists have to keep distance from power, it is necessary to rethink our strategy and find a new guarantee for success in the public arena, a kind of “human rights force”. Without it we waste energy and achieve little. Although the development of human rights activities will improve things, many people will still be suppressed and crushed. It is necessary for the international human rights organizations to call on the viewpoints of the activists around the world and ask them to contribute to the mechanism by which we exchange views and acquire collective wisdom to find a solution to the problem. Such a call will strengthen and improve the sense of participation and collective responsibility. One example of a human rights force is that in March 2008 an Austrian company declared that investment in Iran must be stopped until the execution of children is ended. Human rights campaigners can convince well-known companies and universities worldwide to use very opportunity, even if it is outside of their direct responsibilities, to promote human rights.
2- The reason why in some countries human rights are being violated systematically is that there is no independent judiciary. In another words, the judges and prosecutors are under pressure of or subjected to security forces or political powers. Thus, instead of protesting against the illegal and unlawful sentences, one must take into account the lack of judiciary independence. And the international society must not recognize such sentences issued by such judiciary systems unless it proves its independence from the security forces and political powers.
3- "Prison" is a universal and enduring issue. Even if someday the death penalty is abolished, prison will remain. The prison systems have close links to human rights violations such as torture, diminishing of human dignity, etc. The experience of Guantanamo, Abu Graib, in other countries and recently the torture in the prisons in Iran, which caused to deaths of my fellow country men and women, proves that in the onset of the third Millennium we still encounter an immense violation of the human rights in prisons both in the developing and the developed world. This is a chance for me to reiterate my proposal to declare in the UN an International Day in Defense of the Prisoner. I am looking forward for the declaration of such day and have drafted already some ideas, which you can obtain from the MEA.
4- At the moment in most Islamic countries the death penalty is prevalent and the reason is the traditional view that abolishment is against particular verses of the Qu’ran. This shows that in Islamic countries we need a transformation in the minds of people to re-interpret the Holy Book and show the humanistic base of Qu’ran. The Arabic Network for human rights Information and the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran translated into Arabic and published my book called “The Right to Life” which argues that the abolishment of the death penalty is not against Islam.

Emadeddin Baghi, 2 November 2009

A Proposal for Establishing “The International Day of Prisoners’ Rights”

‎by Emadeddin Baghi (Iran)
Laureate of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders 2009.

There are currently various national and international days and occasions to ‎memorialize issues such as Human Rights, Freedom of the Press, combating ‎HIV/AIDS and supporting their victims, etc. Nevertheless there is no such ‎commemoration for prisoners. Prisons and prisoners are the issues that have ‎much older history than many other problems and concerns. In all societies, ‎prisons and the treatment of prisoners are among the major ‎human rights issues. The way prisoners are treated is a clear indicator of ‎observance and/or violation of human rights.‎
Dedicating a special day to prisoners’ rights would have the following ‎advantages:‎
‎1.‎ Raising public awareness on the issue of prisoners’ rights through the media ‎on a specific day at a global scale.
2- Experience shows that institutions and ‎media working on a special theme are able to mobilize resources much ‎further on a specific day named after their cause.‎
‎3.‎ Support can be given to books, persons, artistic products, institutions and NGOs ‎reflecting on the subject of prisoners' rights.‎
‎4.‎ On this day, attention should be focused on the prison staff and guards as the people ‎who are in direct contact with prisoners, on this day. Simply punishing and ‎rebuking prison staff would by no means encourage them to observe ‎prisoners’ rights. Furthermore, promoting the concepts of human rights and ‎prisoners’ rights could not do the trick on its own. Prison staff should be ‎highlighted on that day as the most influential and prime agent in fulfilling ‎the rights of prisoners through encouragements. Accordingly, the prison staff ‎members who are reported by prisoners and human rights institutions and ‎individuals as those having worked appropriately to observe prisoners’ rights ‎and promote human dignity can be awarded on the International Day for ‎Prisoners’ Rights. This can create a constructive competition amongst prison staffs for observing the rights of prisoners.
5- One of the advantages of the abovementioned proposal is that even in those countries accused of violating human rights this will be welcomed by States because they cannot really disagree with donations to prison staff who observe the rights of prisoners. This donation is given to a Government employee, not a dissident, while those who disagree with the government will welcome the steps to observe the rights of the prisoners. This is exactly the reason why I proposed it in Iran and some of the political prisoners with heavy sentences called me and expressed their appreciation of the idea and nominated some of the prison guards to encourage them.
As date, I myself suggest the ‎‎5th of March as on this day in 1897 one of the most prominent Persian social and political ‎activists and one of the first supporters of human rights in its modern sense in ‎the region, Seyed Jamalodin Assadabadi, was killed in an Ottoman prison ‎deprived of all his legal and human rights.‎ However, I leave it up to the various organizations to propose and develop this idea at an international level.
I hope that one day all the human rights organizations worldwide, NGOs and the media will mobilize their efforts to report on events inside prisons and denounce violations. The rights of prisoners will benefit. ‎

Emadedin Baghi
2 November 2009

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