Iran - October 2010

The Law Society of Upper Canada Expresses Grave Concerns about the Harassment, Arrest and Imprisonment of Human Rights Lawyers and Activists in Iran

The Law Society of Upper Canada condemns the persecution of human rights lawyers and activists in Iran.

Reports indicate that on September 4, 2010, Ms. Nasrin Sotoudeh was arrested. Ms. Sotoudeh, a prominent human rights lawyer, is well-known for defending juveniles facing death penalty, prisoners of conscience and children victims of abuse. Ms. Sotoudeh has also represented several political activists and protesters who were arrested in the aftermath of the disputed presidential election in Iran in 2009 and was a member of the Iranian Women’s Rights Movement ‘One Million Signature Campaign’ aimed at collecting signatures from Iranians opposed to the country’s discriminatory laws against women.

It was reported that Ms. Sotoudeh went to Evin prison court, where she had been summoned by the Revolutionary Prosecutor's Office on charges of “propaganda against the State” and “collusion and gathering with the aim of acting against national security.” After her questioning by a magistrate, Ms. Sotoudeh was arrested. Her lawyer was not permitted to be present during the questioning and Ms. Sotoudeh remains detained in Evin prison.

Reports also indicate that the arrest of Ms. Sotoudeh is related to the systemic approach by Iranian officials to silence hundreds of activists and opposition members many of whom have been sentenced to prison or death.

In the past, the Law Society of Upper Canada has repeatedly condemned the harassment of lawyers in Iran, including the treatment of Shirin Ebadi, Saleh Kamrani, Nasser Zarafshan and Abdolfattah Soltani, by raising its concerns with the Iranian authorities about the ongoing human rights violations against lawyers.

International human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the UN Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary state that judicial independence and human rights are necessary to advancing the rule of law.

 The Law Society urges the Iranian authorities to, 

  1. immediately and unconditionally release and guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Nasrin Sotoudeh and other human rights lawyers and activists whose detention is  arbitrary and is aimed at sanctioning their human rights activities;
  2. ensure that all lawyers can carry out their peaceful and legitimate activities without fear of arbitrary detention, ill treatment or other human rights violations;
  3. put an end to all acts of harassment and intimidation against human rights lawyers in Iran;
  4. ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with national human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Iran; and 
  5. uphold the rule of law.

The Law Society of Upper Canada is the governing body for more than 42,000 lawyers and some 3,000 paralegals in the Province of Ontario, Canada and the Treasurer is the head of the Law Society.  The mandate of the Law Society is to govern the legal profession in the public interest by upholding the independence, integrity and honour of the legal profession for the purpose of advancing the cause of justice and the rule of law.