Annual Report: Iran 2011

May 28, 2011

Annual Report: Iran 2011

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Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, who had stood against President Ahmadinejad in the June 2009 presidential election, continued to face severe restrictions on their freedom of movement. Government supporters attacked them or their families, and newspapers were instructed not to report about them or about former president Mohammad Khatami. Two major political parties opposed to the government were banned while others remained prohibited.

The government purged universities of "secular" teaching staff and imposed education bans on students engaged in campus protests.

The authorities continued to restrict access to outside sources of information such as the internet. International radio and television broadcasts were jammed. In January, the authorities banned contact by Iranians with some 60 news outlets and foreign based organizations. Those willing to speak to the few large Persian language media outlets on human rights issues were threatened or harassed by security officials. Many Iranians turned to social networking websites to express their views.

The authorities banned newspapers and student journals and prosecuted journalists whose reporting they deemed "against the system". Wiretapping and intercepting of SMS and email communications were routine. A shadowy "cyber army", reportedly linked to the Revolutionary Guards, organized attacks on domestic and foreign internet sites deemed to be antigovernment, while other sites, including some associated with religious leaders, were filtered.

Arbitrary arrests and detentions

Security officials, generally in plain clothes and without showing identification or arrest warrants, continued to arrest arbitrarily government opponents and people seen to be dissenting from officially approved values on account of their views or lifestyle. Among those arrested were human rights activists, independent trade unionists, students and political dissidents.

Those arrested were often held for long periods during which they were denied contact with their lawyers or families, tortured or otherwise ill-treated, and denied access to medical care. Some were sentenced to prison terms after unfair trials. Others sentenced after unfair trials in previous years remained in jail.

  • In February, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention declared that three US nationals detained in July 2009 while hiking near the Iraq/Iran border were held arbitrarily. In August, it concluded that Isa Saharkhiz, a journalist and member of Iran's Committee to Protect Freedom of the Press, held since July 2009 and sentenced in September 2010 to three years' imprisonment for "insulting the country's leadership" and "propaganda against the system", was also being arbitrarily detained and should be released.
  • Human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh was arrested on 4 September. She remained held at the end of 2010, on trial on security charges relating to her peaceful human rights activities and defense of her clients.

Unfair trials

The year saw a further degradation of the criminal justice system, which offered little protection of human rights. Political suspects received grossly unfair trials in which they often faced vaguely worded charges that did not amount to recognizably criminal offenses. Frequently, they were convicted in the absence of defense lawyers on the basis of "confessions" or other information allegedly obtained under torture in pretrial detention. Courts accepted such "confessions" as evidence without investigating how they were obtained.