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Public Statement: Iran (February 2019)

The Law Society of Ontario expresses grave concern about the ongoing detention and charges against lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh
 
Toronto, ON — The Law Society of Ontario expresses grave concern over the ongoing detention and charges against 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 is a human rights lawyer in Iran who has been convicted and sentenced to five years in prison for her work representing a client who was arrested for allegedly removing her hijab in public. Nasrin Sotoudeh has represented a number of women who have faced charges as a result of their protests against compulsory veiling (hijab) laws in Iran.  
 
The Law Society has previously intervened on her behalf after she was arrested and detained for exercising her legitimate professional duties. We have expressed our concerns previously and, most recently, in September 2018. In our latest letter, we voiced our deep concerns about Nasrin Sotoudeh’s arrest of June 13, 2018 and subsequent detention. She was arrested and detained to serve a sentence ordered against her, in absentia, nearly two years prior to her June arrest. In this letter, we urged the government of Iran to release, unconditionally, Nasrin Sotoudeh and her family members including her husband, Reza Khandan, who had been campaigning for her release and was arrested on September 4, 2018.
 
Reports state that Reza Khandan was released from custody at Evin prison on December 28, 2018 and was sentenced shortly thereafter, on January 22, 2019, to six years in prison for national security and propaganda related charges.
 
It has been reported that the five-year prison sentence ordered against Nasrin Sotoudeh in absentia on September 3, 2016 has been appealed. According to credible reports, an indictment against Nasrin Sotoudeh was delivered to the Revolutionary Court in Tehran and that a new trial at the court was set thereafter for December 23, 2018.
 
Nasrin Sotoudeh continues to be deprived of family visitation rights while in detention. She has repeatedly been denied visits from her family at Evin prison and has been denied rights to see her two children, this time, for the alleged reason of having a small cutting tool in her cell, which is normally permitted in the Women’s Ward at Evin prison.
 
Reports indicate that prison authorities imposed restrictions on phone communications in the Women’s Ward in January 2019. It is unclear whether limitations on phone access continue to be in place. Reports indicate that female detainees at Evin Prison’s Women’s Ward are subjected to harsher treatment than other inmates, are routinely denied or subjected to limited family visits and telephone communication with family, and that the denial or limitation of such visits and telephone communications is consistently stated by the inmates to be the most distressing type of treatment.
 
In recent months, international and governmental organizations have expressed increased concern for Nasrin Sotoudeh’s conditions. In November 2018, the United Nations reiterated its “concern at the in-absentia conviction and subsequent imprisonment” of Nasrin Sotoudeh and called on the government of Iran to guarantee her right to a fair trial. On December 13, 2018, the European Parliament passed a resolution urging the government of Iran “to immediately and unconditionally release Nasrin Sotoudeh” and the judiciary system of Iran “to respect due process and fair trial and disclose information on the charges against Nasrin Sotoudeh”.
 
The Law Society of Ontario is 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 10 states:
 
Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.
 
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 reverse the in absentia charges and sentence against Nasrin Sotoudeh and ensure that she is returned home;

  2. immediately and unconditionally release Reza Khandan;

  3. pending their release, ensure that Nasrin Sotoudeh and her husband 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. 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;

  5. 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

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