For Immediate Release
December 30, 2011

Contact: Alex Chalk
+44 (7778) 444-822; [email protected]

London: Today, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Shirin Ebadi and Freedom Now released Opinion No. 21/2011 of the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. In the opinion, the United Nations body declares that the detention of lawyer and human rights activist Nasrin Sotoudeh is a violation of Iran’s obligations under international law and calls for her immediate release. Ms. Sotoudeh is serving six years in prison for her work for the Center for Human Rights Defenders, which was founded by Ms. Ebadi.

Writing in today’s Wall Street Journal, attached, Ms. Ebadi stated “the international community must more vigorously highlight the suffering of the Iranian people. To bring about the day when Nasrin and other Iranian dissidents can walk freely in the streets of Iran, we need a plan guided by moral vision. This requires the international community to act boldly in line with its highest ideals.”

The Working Group held that the detention of Ms. Sotoudeh in retaliation for her work as a human rights defender resulted from her exercise of fundamental rights protected by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a party. Specifically, it found her detention violates articles 18 (freedom of thought), 19 (freedom of opinion and expression), 21 (peaceful assembly) and 22 (freedom of association) of the treaty. In addition, the Working Group found that Ms. Sotoudeh’s trial violated minimum international standards for due process contained in article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to such an extent as to render her detention arbitrary. In doing so, the Working Group noted that the government denied Ms. Sotoudeh the right to effective legal assistance as guaranteed by international law. The Working Group is an independent and impartial body currently composed of human rights experts from Chile, Norway, Pakistan, Senegal and Ukraine. The Working Group’s unique mandate authorizes it to adjudicate individual cases of arbitrary detention.

“This is a critical affirmation from the United Nations that the Iranian government’s detention of Nasrin Sotoudeh is in flagrant violation of international law,” Ms. Ebadi said. “It is a stark reminder of the appalling conditions faced by human rights defenders in Iran. We call on the Iranian government today for her immediate release.”

The full text of Opinion No. 21/2011 is attached.