Amnesty International is concerned by evidence that the Iranian authorities are intensifying their clampdown on dissent in the run-up to the country’s next presidential election, due to be held on 14 June 2013.
Those targeted include political activists, journalists and other media workers, trade unionists, advocates of greater rights for Iran’s religious and ethnic minorities, students and others. In many cases, the full reasons for arrest and detention are not known; in others, those arrested have been brought before the courts on sweeping but vaguely worded charges, convicted and sentenced to prison terms. In yet other cases, individuals who were sentenced in previous years but not made to serve them immediately or else released provisionally for medical reasons have been summoned to prison to serve what remains of their sentences as the authorities seek to pre-empt protests at the time of the presidential election.
The Iranian authorities have long sought to suppress and punish dissent and the advocacy of views or policies with which they disagree, and the authorities’ current crackdown is only the most recent of many similar bouts of repression. One of the most severe occurred following the last presidential election in 2009 when nationwide mass protests broke out after the authorities announced that the incumbent, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, had secured victory by a large margin, prompting allegations of electoral fraud.
Today, dozens of political prisoners, including prisoners of conscience, sentenced to long prison terms after unfair trials connected to the 2009 protests, remain in prison. Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi, who emerged as main opposition leaders when they contested the 2009 presidential election against President Ahmadinejad, along with latter’s wife, Zahra Rahnavard, continue to be confined under indefinite house arrest orders that the authorities have enforced since February 2011. This is despite repeated calls for their release by the UN, including a joint call in February 2013 by three leading human rights experts, the Special Rapporteurs on the situation of human rights in Iran and on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association and the Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. On 29 August 2012, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention ruled that the detention under house arrest of Mir Hossein Mousavi, Zahra Rahnavard and Mehdi Karroubi amounted to arbitrary detention, so contravening both Iranian national law and international law; nevertheless, their detention under indefinite house arrest continues.