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Public Statement: Iran (April 2019)

The Law Society of Ontario expresses grave concern about the conviction and sentencing of lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh
 
Toronto, ON — The Law Society of Ontario expresses grave concern over the conviction and sentencing of lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh. When reports of serious issues of injustice to lawyers and the judiciary come to our attention, we advocate for the protection of their inalienable human rights.
 
Nasrin Sotoudeh has recently been convicted on seven charges, and sentenced to 33 years in prison and 148 lashes.  According to credible reports, the charges stem solely from her human rights work and for having spoken out against the death penalty in Iran. 
 
Authorities at Evin prison informed her of the sentence and the conviction on seven charges which include, “inciting corruption and prostitution”, “openly committing a sinful act by...appearing in public without a hijab”, “disrupting public order”, and “assembly and collusion against national security”.  However, Judge Mohammad Moghiseh, who rendered the sentencing decision, told the Iranian Student News Agency on March 11 that his court had sentenced her to five years on the charge of “assembly and collusion against the state” and two years on the charge of “insulting the supreme leader”.  It has been reported that he also told journalists that “the verdict was not issued in her absence because she had a lawyer”.  
 
Credible reports indicate that her trial, which took place on December 30, 2018 at Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran, was held in her absence.  She had refused to attend this trial in protest of its unjust nature. Reports state that, in particular, she was denied the right to a lawyer of her own choosing and instead asked to choose from a list of lawyers pre-approved by the Iranian judiciary.            
 
The Law Society is deeply concerned by Nasrin Sotoudeh’s conviction and sentence as this is the harshest sentence that has been documented by Amnesty International against a human rights defender in Iran in recent years.  Credible reports suggest that the Iranian government has been increasing its repression on activists and rights defenders, and that Nasrin Sotoudeh’s situation is representative of an increase in the harassment, arrest and detention of human rights lawyers in Iran in recent months.
 
The Law Society has previously intervened on Nasrin Sotoudeh’s behalf after she was arrested and detained for exercising her legitimate professional duties. In our most recent letter dated February 2019, we expressed our concerns with respect to the harsh treatment faced by Nasrin Sotoudeh and other female detainees at Evin Prison’s Women’s Ward. We understand that Nasrin Sotoudeh has endured two hunger strikes at Evin prison in protest against such conditions, including repeated denials of her rights to see her son and daughter. 
 
Governments and human rights organizations around the world have collectively expressed shock at the recent conviction and sentencing of Nasrin Sotoudeh.  United Nations human rights experts have called on Iran to “immediately free prominent human rights lawyer and defender Nasrin Sotoudeh from jail pending a review of her conviction and sentence”.
 
The Law Society of Ontario strongly condemns the charges, conviction and sentence against Nasrin Sotoudeh. We are seriously concerned by credible reports of Nasrin Sotoudeh’s situation and urges Iran to comply with its obligations under international human rights laws, including the United Nations’ Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers and Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
 
Article 8 of the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers states:
 
All arrested, detained or imprisoned persons shall be provided with adequate opportunities, time and facilities to be visited by and to communicate and consult with a lawyer, without delay, interception or censorship and in full confidentiality. Such consultations may be within sight, but not within the hearing, of law enforcement officials.
 
Article 16 states:
 
Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; (b) are able to travel and to consult with their clients freely both within their own country and abroad; and (c) shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economics or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics.
 
Article 17 states:
 
Where the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their functions, they shall be adequately safeguarded by the authorities.
 
Moreover, Article 23 provides:
 
Lawyers like other citizens are entitled to freedom of expression, belief, association and assembly. In particular, they shall have 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 and to join or form local, national or international organizations and attend their meetings, without suffering professional restrictions by reason of their lawful action or their membership in a lawful organization.
 
Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:
 
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
 
Article 5 states:
 
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
 
Article 9 states:
 
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
 
Article 11 states:
 
(1) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.
 
(2) No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.
 
Moreover, Article 19 states:
 
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
 
The Law Society urges the Government of Iran to:

  1. immediately and unconditionally release Nasrin Sotoudeh;

  2. immediately and unconditionally vacate the in absentia convictions rendered against Nasrin Sotoudeh and ensure that she is returned home;

  3. pending her release, ensure that Nasrin Sotoudeh and her family members are not subjected to torture or other ill-treatment, have regular, unrestricted access to her family, lawyers of hers, and medical care on request and as necessary;

  4. ensure that Nasrin Sotoudeh is afforded regular access to her family;

  5. guarantee that adequate reparation will be provided to Nasrin Sotoudeh and her family members if they are found to be victims of human rights abuses;

  6. ensure that all lawyers and judges in Iran are adequately safeguarded by the authorities such that they are able to carry out their professional duties and activities free from intimidation, hindrance, harassment, improper interference, the threat of criminalization or other human rights violations; and

  7. ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments.