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Iran: Temporary release of human rights lawyer a positive first step

Human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh has been temporarily released on health grounds

GENEVA (13 November 2020) – UN human rights experts* today welcomed the temporary release on 7 November 2020 of Iranian woman human rights defender and lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, and urged Iranian authorities to quash her convictions and ensure her release is permanent.

“The Iranian authorities have made the right decision to grant Nasrin Sotoudeh temporary release given her underlying health condition. However, there remain serious issues in connection with her convictions, sentences and detention that must be resolved urgently,” the experts said.

Ms. Sotouteh, an internationally recognised human rights lawyer, is currently serving a lengthy prison sentence after being convicted on seven charges in March 2019. Her convictions relate to her duties as a lawyer, including defending women human rights defenders. The experts have previously raised serious concerns that her current detention is arbitrary.

Concerns regarding her imprisonment have been exacerbated in recent months due to reports regarding her health condition and COVID-19 fears. Despite continuing concerns, she was later transferred to Qarchak Prison outside of Tehran, known for its particularly dire conditions. The experts expressed alarm that Ms. Sotoudeh is now reported to have tested positive for COVID-19, which she likely contracted whilst imprisoned.

“The reports of Ms. Sotoudeh’s COVID-19 test are extremely worrying. We had warned the Iranian Government several times of this likelihood. We now urge the Iranian authorities to ensure that Ms. Sotoudeh is able to obtain unhindered access to the health care she requires to treat both her underlying conditions and the COVID-19 disease,” the experts said.

“Notwithstanding her temporary release, Ms. Sotoudeh’s convictions and prison sentences still stand despite a multitude of evidence that shows the arbitrary, unlawful and disproportionate nature of these decisions. We reassert that the Iranian authorities should immediately quash her convictions, review her case consistent with international standards and ensure that she remains free during the review process,” the experts urged.

“Her COVID-19 positive test also shows the real risks for those in detention in Iran. We therefore again call for all arbitrarily detained individuals to at least be granted temporary release at this time to mitigate their risk of contracting COVID-19 in prison.”


* The UN experts: Javaid Rehman, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran; Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Elizabeth Broderick (Chair), Elena Dorothy Estrada Tanck, Meskerem Geset Techane, Ivana RadačIć, Melissa Upreti (Vice Chair), Working Group on discrimination against women and girls; Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; Diego García-Sayán, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers; Mr. Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the rights to peaceful assembly and of association; Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expressionDubravka ŠimonovićSpecial Rapporteur on violence against womenMs. Tlaleng MofokengSpecial Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.

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