Where's the UN High Commissioner?

Family in anguish over the health of hunger striking lawyer


Where's the UN High Commissioner?
by Hadi Ghaemi

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, should immediately intervene with Iranian authorities to ensure the physical well being of detained human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh.
On Sunday, 31 October, Sotoudeh, one of Iran’s most prominent human rights lawyers went on a dry hunger strike protesting her detention and ill treatment inside Tehran’s Evin prison. Her family reported that her health is quickly deteriorating.
“As High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay has a duty to come to the aid of embattled human rights defenders,” said Hadi Ghaemi, spokesperson for the Campaign. “Her failure to respond to systematic persecution and prosecution of human rights lawyers, including Sotoudeh, would be cause for concern.”
“Sotoudeh is putting her life on the line not only for the rights of people in Iran, but for the very principles the UN was founded to uphold” he added.
Sotoudeh has been in detention since 4 September. Authorities have denied her contact with her lawyer and restricted family visits. Reza Khandan, her husband, told the Campaign that her two young children, three and eleven years old, managed to visit her for the first time today, to find her in seriously grave health. Khandan himself has been denied any visits, while Sotoudeh's mother and sister accompanied her children to see her today and confirmed she is in bad health.
“She is in a terrible state. The kids cried and left the prison, struck with sadness. She has lost a lot of weight. Her skin has darkened, and she was too weak to hug the kids,” said Khandan.
Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi, Tehran’s chief prosecutor, met with Sotoudeh on Sunday afternoon, just before she began her hunger strike. Khandan told the Campaign that no developments came out of that meeting.
Sotoudeh, who has defended Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi and numerous other human rights activists, was arrested on 4 September 2010, and has been held in solitary confinement as she awaits trial on charges of "acting against national security," "congregation and collusion with intent to disrupt national security," and "cooperation with the Center for Human Rights Defenders." Her trial is scheduled to start on 15 November. Colleagues have received reports that Sotoudeh has been tortured in order to coerce a confession.
“Previously, she had told the authorities in charge that if things improve and normal legal procedures are followed in her case, she would end her hunger strike. But her situation not only did not improve, it has worsened,” Khandan said.
“Her case is not following proper procedures,” Khandan added. “She is kept in an irregular situation. She has been in solitary confinement for days. I don't understand why they would treat a lawyer like her this way. I think my wife noticed that the situation is irregular, and that's why she has [gone on hunger strike].”
Sotoudeh’s case is part of a string of arrests and prosecutions of human rights lawyers in Iran, including those of Mohammad Oliaifard, Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, Abdolfattah Soltani, Giti Pourfazel, and Mohammad Seifzadeh.
Mohammad Oliaifard is serving a one year prison sentence solely for providing information about the judicial process to the media. On 30 October, Tehran’s Revolutionary Court sentenced Mohammad Seifzadeh to nine years in prison and a ten-year ban from practicing law. Mohammad Ali Dadkhah and Abdolfattah Soltani have open prosecutions against them. Giti Pourfazel, a lawyer representing Baha’i defendants, is summoned to appear in court on 7 November.
The United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, which the UN General Assembly adopted by consensus in 1998, declares that states “shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of [human rights defenders] against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary actions” as a consequence of their legitimate effort to promote human rights.
The UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers provide that lawyers must be allowed to carry out their work “without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference.” In addition, it affirms the right of lawyers to freedom of expression, also provided for in Article 19 of the ICCPR, which includes “the right to take part in public discussion of matters concerning the law, the administration of justice and the promotion and protection of human rights”.
On 31 October, Shirin Ebadi appealed for intervention by the High Commissioner regarding the persecution of Sotoudeh and other Iranian human rights lawyers. Given Sotoudeh’s subsequent dry hunger strike, Ebadi’s appeal should be treated as a matter of utmost urgency.

Hadi Ghaemi is Executive Director of International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.

* Listen to the Campaign's Weekly Iran Rights Podcast
* For the latest human rights developments in Iran visit the Campaign’s website.
* For interviews or more information:
-- Hadi Ghaemi, in New York: +1 917-669-5996
-- Aaron Rhodes, in Hamburg:  +49 170-323-8314
-- Rudi Bakhtiar, in Washington DC: +1 202-573-2046


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ویدئو گزارش

Veiled Prophet of Khorasan


by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


Yes UN is "Useless Nations". It won't do a damn thing because it has no power. But I still support her and bringing attention to this matter. Different people resist in different ways. The important thing is to resist this backwards cult of Mullahs.

zohre Mousoli

Nasrin Sotoudeh must be freed

by zohre Mousoli on

The life of the women activist and one of the foremost advocate of women equality is in danger. Shirin Ebadi's tireless work for her release is an example of the Velvet revolution which taking place across all walks of life in Iran. Why is Nasrin Sotoudeh in Evin Prison? What is her crime? According to her husband Reza Khandan, they have very little news of her. Hadi Ghaemi campaign to release Nasrin is remarkable and should be followed by all Iranian opposition groups and the Green Movement. Nasrin was my lawyer and we worked for many years for women rights and I know she is woman of integrity and honour and must be released immediately.

Zohreh Mousoli


I agree with the Mexican...

by Harpi-Eagle on

But not for the same reason.  I do admire her or any other brave Iranians who stand up to the IRI thugs and their thug mentality.  However, expecting the UN to be of help to anyone is stupid.  UN is a non-entity that has never been able to stop injustice or help anyone in their entire half century history. 

Furthermore, although I do respect her for her sentiments, I firmly believe IRI doesn't give a shit about any hunger strikers, any voice of descent, or any world or western opinions.  The only language a thug with guns understands is a force with bigger guns and more stmoach for violence.

Payandeh Iran, our Ahuraie Fatherland 

Veiled Prophet of Khorasan


by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


You may not be that familiar with Iran. We used to have a secular government. Iran is not Iraq or Pakistan. We have our own culture which is very different than Islam. 

We had women in bikinis in the 60s. This Islam garbage is being forced on us. It does not take "generations" to get rid of it. Why don't you go to Westwood CA and see how Iranian women act when they don't have a gun to their heads.

In short: Our culture is fine and does not need "generations". Please learn about us before making remarks. If we were into Islam we would practice it here as well. And I mean Iranian people who just come here ditch Islam first thing.



To: VPK'

by Raoul1955 on

Her action does get some people's attention, and that serves as short term objective.  However, what exactly is her long term goal?  Forcing Iranians into embracing Western values?  She is a 'human rights' lawyer in Iran!
Rhetorical questions as usual:
Does Islam recognize the set of values defined as 'human rights?'  Are such values in koran, hadith, or sharia?  If not, then nothing will change vis-à-vis the so-called 'human rights' in Iran, or other muslim nations.   To make my position digestible let's consider the following:
Our government overthrew a secular dictatorship in Iraq.  The consequences include the loss of legal and social rights for non-muslims as well as women.  Now Christians are being killed, and women who don’t wear hijab are subject to arrest, gang-rape, etc.

A regime change is very easy, however changing a nation's culture, well, that has to be initiated from within and takes generations of people willingly changing their values.
Many Iranians who have tasted the fruits of Western Civilization may crave such for Iranians in Iran, but the rational approach dictates having a realistic view of the situation.

If someone wants to bring about a regime change in Iran, well that requires external assistance, but the main problem that islamic folks face within their own societies is CULTURE.

Veiled Prophet of Khorasan

It is

by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


her choice to stand up for herself and Iranian women. A good choice I may add and I both admire and support her. I am afraid this may cost her life and that would be a tragedy. However she is doing the right thing and good for her and us all.

Raoul955: Inappropriate remark. What do you want Iranian people to do? If people do nothing then they are accused of agreeing with the Mollahs. When someone does something to bring attention to it they get vilified? 


This lady is amazing. Makes me proud of being Iranian.

by Roozbeh_Gilani on

Whilst all of us, from the safety of our keyboards, with belly full of "burger king" or "ghormeh sabzi" write whatever we want on this site. Whilst some cowardly clowns with fake user ID's muck this brave lady with comments such as it was "her choice", or tell her to eat "burger king in Baghdad", this true example of Iranian woomanhood has put her life on line for defence of his countrymen and women fighting for liberation of Iran from the Yoke of Islamist fascism. 

Great blog and fully agree with your stance. This brave lady needs and deserves the support of the entire international community. 

"Personal business must yield to collective interest."

Sargord Pirouz

Millions of Iraqi and

by Sargord Pirouz on

Millions of Iraqi and Afghani citizens have been wondering, where? Perhaps he's busy feeding himself at a Burger King stand inside an American FOB somewhere?

Shazde Asdola Mirza

Sotoudeh, one of Iran’s most prominent human rights lawyers

by Shazde Asdola Mirza on

... knows that hunger strike is the last resort for an unjustly accused and condemned.

Maryam Nayeb Yazdi


by Maryam Nayeb Yazdi on

Excerpts from: 

Like thousands of others unjustly and illegally imprisoned, Sotoudeh has been denied her due process rights. Contrary to Iranian law, she has been refused contact with her attorney. Her trial is scheduled to start on 15 November, but she was not even informed. According to information we have received from inside Iran, she is being manipulated and coerced into cooperating, with her prosecution, and falsely admitting her guilt.

What perhaps motivates Sotoudeh's sacrifice --and what has made her such a powerful attorney that she posed a threat to the system-- is her devotion to legal principles and procedures. With her life-threatening hunger strike, she is showing her persecutors and interrogators that she will not bend; that she will exercise the only freedom she has not been denied, her freedom over her own body and life.

She is also taking the only step that might arouse the attention of Iran's compliant politicians and clergy, and an international community that has largely ignored the government's savage treatment of its own citizens and international human rights norms. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has thus far been silent about her case. Breaking that silence might save Sotoudeh's life.



by Raoul1955 on

went on a hunger strike by choice.  She is an adult and has the right to do so.
I don't see why some folks can now DEMAND UN personnel to take action, or engage in...fill in the blank against a government because someone decides to go on a hunger strike!
I am very serious.  People do have the right to abstain from eating, drinking, etc.
Just a reminder that human rights, individual freedom, freedom of expression, just naming three, are totally Western concepts and are NOT recognized by the Islamic folks.
Cheers now