Iran bans more newspapers
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: In New York,
Elahé Sharifpour-Hicks: +1 212 216 1233 or +1 914 725 4826
In Brussels, Jean-Paul Marthoz: +32 2 732 2009
IRAN: DEPOLITICIZE THE JUDICIARY
(New York, March 19, 2001) - In an open letter sent today to Leader
of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Khamene'i, Human Rights Watch
protested further closure orders against independent newspapers, the closure
of an independent political party and the continued detention without access
to lawyers or their families of independent political activists. Cartoon here
These judicial actions constitute violations of the Iranian Constitution
and of Iran's obligations in international law.
"The judiciary should not be used as a weapon in the hands of a
political faction," said Hanny Megally, Executive Director of the
Middle East and North Africa Division of Human Rights Watch.
"The leader must use his authority to ensure that doesn't happen."
The text of the letter is attached:
March 19, 2001
His Excellency Ayatollah Ali Khamene'i
Leader of Islamic Republic of Iran
Human Rights Watch is seriously concerned by recent actions of the Iranian
judiciary that have resulted in the closure of a longstanding political
party, the arrests of political activists, and the shutting down of four
We believe these actions have been carried out in violation of Iranian
law as well as international human rights law. We respectfully urge you
to use your authority to ensure that the judiciary carries out its function
in accordance with the Constitution and to ensure that these charges are
dismissed and those held released from detention, and that any unlawful
orders are rescinded.
On March 18, 2001, the Revolutionary Court ordered the effective closure
of the Iran Freedom Movement, an unlicensed political party, on the grounds
that it was attempting to "overthrow the Islamic regime." This
is in apparent contravention of Iran's political party law.
Under the political party law, the courts may not take action against
a political party before a special committee responsible for overseeing
party activities (an "Article 10 Commission") files a formal
complaint. No such complaint has been made against the Freedom Movement.
The Freedom Movement, throughout its fifty year history, has been an advocate
of constitutional Islamic rule with respect for democratic principles.
Several of its members, including its late leader Mehdi Bazargan, served
in the first government of the Islamic Republic in 1979. Since then it
has attempted to nominate candidates for parliamentary and presidential
elections, but its candidates have almost always been ruled inadmissible
by the Council of Guardians.
The closure of the Freedom Movement followed the arrest and detention
of 21 independent political activists associated with the religious nationalist
trend at a political meeting in Tehran on March 11.
The Revolutionary Court stated that the activists, who are associated
with various movements and parties, are linked to the Freedom Movement.
Eleven of those arrested have not been allowed access to legal counsel,
doctors or their families and are being held incommunicado in violation
of Iranian and international law.
Particularly disturbing is that their whereabouts remain unknown. Among
those who remain in detention are: Dr. Mohammad Maleki, the former chancellor
of the University of Tehran, Dr. Habibullah Peiman, Taghi Rahmani, Mohammad
Basteh Nagar, Dr. Ali Reza Rajaei, Mahmoud Omrani, Saeid Madani-Farokhi,
Mohammad Mohammadi-Ardehali, Dr. Hossein Rafei, Dr. Reza Reiss-Toussi,
Dr. Massoud Pedram and Morteza Kazemian.
Iran is about to begin its major annual national holiday of Nowrouz
with the prospect that these men will continue to be held without access
to their families, doctors or lawyers.
Several other persons believed to have been arrested on the orders of
the same Revolutionary Court remain in detention in unknown locations and
without access to lawyers.
These include two journalists, Hoda Saber and Reza Alijani, the editor
of the closed Iran-e Farda newspaper; student leader Ali Afshari; and independent
veteran political activist Ezzatollah Sahhabi, who is seventy years old.
The courts continue to restrict the right to freedom of expression in
violation of Iranian law and international human rights law.
On March 18, the press court ordered the closure of four more independent
newspapers, one daily, Douran-e Emrouz, and three monthly publications:
Peyam-e Emrouz, Jamaeh Madani and Mubayyin.
These closures are the latest in a severe clampdown by the judiciary
on the activities of the independent print media. The Court justified its
actions as being in accordance with Article 156 (5) of the Constitution
(which empowers it to take "appropriate measures in order to prevent
crime") and by reference to Articles 12 and 13 of the Precautionary
Measures Law of the Iranian penal law (which empowers courts to order the
seizure of "instruments used for committing crimes").
However, under Iranian law, only the Press Supervisory Board within
the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance can order the closure of newspapers
Your Excellency, in recent years, as the competition between political
factions has intensified in Iran, you have not hesitated to intervene in
accordance with your extensive powers under the Constitution to ensure
the proper coordination of the different branches of the government. Your
Excellency, your silence in the face of these serious violations of both
Iranian and international human rights law is only likely to exacerbate
political tensions and undermine respect for the rule of law.
Human Rights Watch urges you to use your authority so that political
activists who are being held in violation of the law be released and the
cases against them dismissed, and that the court orders against the Freedom
Movement and independent newspapers and magazines be rescinded.
Sincerely, /s/ Hanny Megally Executive Director Middle East and North