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Iran criticized by UN for crackdown on human rights lawyers

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] on Tuesday expressed her concern [text] over Iran's crackdown on human rights defenders. Pillay expressed particular concern for Nasrin Sotoudeh, the human rights lawyer who has been conducting hunger strikes [BBC report] since her imprisonment [JURIST report] in September for allegedly spreading propaganda and colluding against national security. Earlier this year, Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website; press release, PDF] and the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran [advocacy website; press release] called on Pillay to pressure Iran to release Sotoudeh. Pillay called for Sotoudeh's release:

As we approach international Human Rights Day on 10 December, the world will be focusing on situations where human rights activists are not free to organize or speak out. I am very concerned that Nasrin Sotoudeh's case is part of a much broader crackdown, and that the situation of human rights defenders in Iran is growing more and more difficult. ... I urge the Iranian authorities to review her case urgently and expedite her release.
Pillay also noted that, "[f]reedom of speech and freedom of assembly are enshrined in international law, most importantly in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [text], which is a binding treaty that Iran has ratified." Next week, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] will conduct a judicial colloquium in Tehran to instruct 30 Iranian judges and prosecutors on correct treatment of detainees, as well as how to conduct fair trials.

Pillay previously criticized [JURIST report] Iran's human rights record in March while presenting her annual report. Pillay condemned Iran for the "arbitrary arrest" of, and "harsh sentences, including capital punishment" given to, individuals involved in protests following the June 2009 presidential elections [JURIST news archive]. Iran defended [JURIST report] its human rights record to the UN in February. Sotoudeh worked on several high-profile cases related to the 2009 presidential election. She was the lawyer for Arash Rahmanipour, who was arrested for his role in the post-election protests on charges of mohareb, translated as being "enemies of God." Rahmanipour was executed [JURIST report] in January. Sotoudeh also represented Isa Saharkhiz [IPS profile], a well-known press activist who was sentenced [JURIST report] to four years in prison in 2006 for publishing articles against the constitution and offending the state media. In December 2009, AI labeled [JURIST report] human rights abuses committed by the Iranian government following the election among the worst of the past 20 years. Alleged human rights violations of detainees include sexual assault, beatings and forced confessions [JURIST reports].

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