UN Secretary-General is “concerned” over imprisoned Iranian Laureate Nasrin Sotoudeh
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed concern over the continued detention of Iranian lawyer and 2020 Right Livelihood Laureate Nasrin Sotoudeh, according to a report presented at the 47th session of the UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday. Guterres also warned that Sotoudeh’s family had been targeted by Iranian authorities.
On May 14, 2021, the UN Secretary-General released his annual report on the situation of human rights in Iran, which was presented at the 47th session of the HRC. In the report, he stated that human rights violations in the country remained “of serious concern.”
Guterres specifically referred to the continued use of the death penalty, the excessive use of force against peaceful assemblies and the number of documented cases of torture and ill-treatment of minors, women and men. He also denounced that the practice of long-term solitary confinement, with no access to healthcare, had been used as a form of post-conviction punishment, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.
When addressing the issue of State practices against lawyers and activists, Guterres expressed deep concern over Sotoudeh’s conviction, which was “connected to the exercise of her profession as a lawyer and human rights defender,” according to the report.
While Guterres welcomed Sotoudeh’s provisional release on the occasion of the Iranian New Year on March 17, 2021, he deplored that her family members have been repeatedly targeted by the authorities. In February 2021, the bank accounts of her husband Reza Khandan were frozen without justification.
In April 2020, their 20-year-old daughter Mehraveh Khandan was arbitrarily detained on specious charges of “insult and assault,” in order to pressure her mother to end a hunger strike for the release of political prisoners. She was subsequently released on bail. This was not the first time Iranian authorities targeted Sotoudeh’s family in retaliation for her fearless defence of rule of law and democracy.
On June 21, 2021, a group of UN experts further condemned Sotoudeh’s imprisonment.
“Despite our many calls over the years to release Ms Sotoudeh, Iranian authorities have failed to do so, and instead they have transferred her to another prison, farther away from her family and under dire conditions,” they stated.
As a prominent Iranian lawyer and human rights defender, Sotoudeh has worked throughout the last 15 years to advance the rights of Iranian women and defend political prisoners, activists, and journalists against the backdrop of an extremely repressive environment. Since 2010, she has been regularly targeted by the Iranian authorities. She was jailed between 2010 and 2013 on charges of “threatening national security,” and her attorney’s license has been revoked.
In March 2019, she was sentenced to 38 years in prison and 148 lashes on bogus charges of collusion against national security, inciting corruption and prostitution, among others. During the Covid-19 pandemic, she was granted temporary furlough three times for medical reasons, but despite the advice of doctors and the several international appeals calling for her release, she was sent back to Qarchak prison in Teheran, where she remains currently detained.
At Right Livelihood, we are committed to protecting and supporting Sotoudeh’s rights and safety. We reiterate our stance on her case and call on the UN to take urgent action to ensure her prompt and permanent release as well as the safety of her family. Lastly, we renew our call on the Iranian authorities to guarantee that all Iranian human rights defenders, lawyers and journalists are able to engage in their respective activities safely and freely, without fear of reprisal, harassment, arrest, detention or prosecution.