UN human rights experts welcome Iran prisoner releases, while calling for more

January 20, 2016

And while we are on groups of UN human rights experts, also on 19 January three Rapporteurs welcomed Iran’s release of four Iranian-Americans in an apparent prisoner swap with the United States, and called on Tehran to pave the way for the freeing of all remaining unlawfully detained prisoners.

Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression David Kaye. UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

Regarding freed Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, said: “For the past year and a half, Mr. Rezaian’s unlawful detention had come to symbolize the Iranian Government’s widening crackdown on speech and press freedoms in the country.”  “The Government of Iran should protect those who exercise their freedom of expression, instead of prosecuting them,” Mr. Kaye stressed. “Dozens of Iranian journalists, bloggers and social media activists remain behind bars in Iran simply for exercising their legitimate rights of expressing views”. 

Two other freed prisoners, Christian pastor Saeed Abedini – who was arrested in 2012 reportedly for activities related to home churches – and Amir Hekmati, were being prosecuted for espionage and other national security-related crimes in trials that fell short of international standards. The UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, reminded Iran of its responsibility to ensure that no one is prosecuted or detained because of their religious views or activities, including Christians of Muslim backgrounds.

Ahmed Shaheed, the UN Special Rapporteur on Iran, praised the lifting of Iranian sanctions, which coincided with the prisoners’ release, and made a special appeal to the Iranian authorities “to spare no effort in addressing long-standing human rights concerns repeatedly raised by the UN human rights mechanisms, especially the alarming surge in executions this past year, increasing restrictions on freedom of expression and peaceful assemblies, women’s rights, discrimination against religious and ethnic minorities, and the ongoing prosecution of journalists, lawyers and human rights defenders.” Mr. Shaheed also renewed his call on Iran to engage constructively with his Human Rights Council mandate by allowing a visit to the country.

Source: United Nations News Centre – UN rights experts welcome Iran prisoner releases, call for freeing of all unlawfully-held detainees

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