The unlawful arrests of six prominent lawyers and civil rights activists in Tehran as they were preparing to file a lawsuit against state officials for their gross mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic is an indication of the worsening human rights situation under the newly inaugurated President Ebrahim Raisi and new Judiciary Chief Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ejei.
“Instead of addressing the skyrocketing numbers of COVID-19 infections and deaths amid the lack of safe vaccines, the state focuses on crushing attempts to hold officials responsible for their calamitous pandemic response,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).
“The Iranian government should be focused on immediately importing as many vaccines as possible,” said Ghaemi. “And the international community should urgently condemn these latest arrests and call on the government to stop trying to muzzle criticism of its policies.”
The arrests took place against a backdrop of the judiciary’s escalating campaign to prevent independent lawyers from seeking justice within the judicial system, which has included dismantling the Iranian Bar Association as well as imprisoning independent lawyers on trumped-up charges.
Arash Keykhosravi (lawyer), Mehdi Mahmoudian (civil activist), Mostafa Nili (lawyer), Leila Heydari (lawyer), Mohammad Reza Faghihi (lawyer), and Maryam Afrafaraz (civil activist) were arrested in Tehran on August 14, 2021, and their phones and other personal belongings were confiscated without a warrant. Heydari was released the following day.
CHRI calls for the immediate release of the lawyers and activists, whose detention is a violation of Article 34 of the Constitution, which states that it is an “indisputable right of every citizen to seek justice by recourse to competent courts. All citizens have right of access to such courts, and no one can be barred from courts to which he has a legal right of recourse.”
Officials who violate Article 34 are subject to punishments listed in Article 570 of the Islamic Penal Code, stipulating that “Any official and agent associated with State agencies and institutions who unlawfully strips members of the public of their personal freedom or deprives them of their rights provided in the IRI Constitution shall be sentenced to two months to three years’ imprisonment, in addition to dismissal from the service and prohibition of employment in state offices for one to five years.”
Source: Iran Human Rights