Lawyers worldwide challenge denial of persecution of Baha’is in Iran

Lawyers worldwide challenge denial of persecution of Baha’is in Iran

Geneva—10 February 2018

In a striking show of solidarity, twenty-five prominent professors, lawyers, and judges from around the world have addressed the head of Iran’s High Council for Human Rights, Mr. Mohammad Javad Larijani, asking him to acknowledge and take steps to remedy the persecution of the Baha’is in Iran.

The open letter, reported on by the British newspaper the Times, brings attention to a website – recently established by the Baha’i International Community and called The Archives of the Persecution of the Baha’is in Iran – that evidences the persecution of the Baha’is over the past decades.

The website makes available for the first time thousands of documents, first-hand reports, testimonials, and audio-visual materials. It was created in response to rising interest both internationally and within Iran by journalists, researchers, activists and others to understand the depth and breadth of the persecution.

The open letter calls on Mr. Larijani to review the contents of the new site and to reconsider statements he and other Iranian officials have made to deny the discrimination against the Baha’is. Referring to these statements, the letter remarks that the records on the Archives “present a different story”.

The website “vividly demonstrates the depth and breadth of unjust, relentless, and systematic oppression against a religious minority”, the letter states, adding that it “provides evidence… which contrasts sharply with statements of denial made over the years by the Iranian authorities.”

It cites examples of the persecution found on the website covering a wide range of violations by Iranian authorities, including arrest and imprisonment, execution, economic oppression, denial of education, acts of destruction and violence, and incitement to hatred. These include:

  • A court verdict from the government’s Department of Justice regarding the murder of a Baha’i man which states that, “as the victim was a Baha’i at the time of accident… and the fact that the provision of blood money [diyeh] is only legally applicable to Muslims”, the accused is acquitted of charges.

  • An official letter from the General Office of the Department of Education in Tehran to a junior high school student which states that she “was a very well-behaved student”, but that she was being expelled “in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic as she is a follower of the Baha’i sect”.

  • A letter from the General Affairs Educational Office of the University of Isfahan to a student states that, as she is “a follower of the Baha’i sect”, she is “not permitted to pursue [her] studies”.

  • A letter from the Court of Administrative Justice to a person with disabilities informs him that he has been “dismissed from his job due to his membership in the Baha’i sect”, that his pension benefits have been stopped, and that his further complaints to the court are “deemed invalid and rejected”.

  • A letter from the Ministry of Education to one of its employees states that she is “dismissed from service in the [Ministry] of Education” and is “ordered to return all salaries received” as she is “affiliated with the illegal Baha’i sect”.

The persecution, as detailed by the Archives, “represents violations of international law, including a number of treaties to which Iran is a party,” and “demonstrates a breach of Iran’s [own] obligations”, the letter says. Quoting from the Iranian constitution, which states that “the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and Muslims are required to treat the non-Muslim individuals with good conduct, in fairness and Islamic justice, and must respect their human rights”, the signatories ask:

“How can the prevention of thousands of young people from access to university be considered fair? How can Islamic justice be upheld when efforts are made to exclude an entire community from participating in the economic life of their own country? How can human rights be respected when innocent individuals are arbitrarily arrested, tortured, and imprisoned for many years; or when they are legally deprived of the right to seek justice for crimes committed against them and when the perpetrators are treated with impunity?”

The signatories hail from various countries throughout the world, such as Brazil, Canada, Germany, India, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

The letter was signed by the following academics and lawyers, listed in alphabetical order:

Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na‘im
Charles Howard Candler Professor of Law
Emory University School of Law

Mehrsa Baradaran
Associate Dean for Strategic Initiatives and
J. Alton Hosch Associate Professor of Law
University of Georgia School of Law

Upendra Baxi
Emeritus Professor of Law in Development
University of Warwick

Kirsty Brimelow QC
International Human Rights Lawyer
Doughty Street Chambers
Chair of Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales

Khaled Abou El Fadl

Omar and Azmeralda Alfi Professor of Law
Deputy Chair of Islamic Studies Program
University of California, Los Angeles School of Law

Lord Anthony Gifford QC
Doughty Street Chambers
Senior Partner
Gifford Thompson & Bright

Richard Goldstone
Retired Justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa
First UN Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda

Claudio Grossman

Professor of Law, Dean Emeritus

Raymond I. Geraldson Scholar for International and Humanitarian Law

American University Washington College of Law

Christof Heyns
Professor of Human Rights Law
Director of the Institute for International and Comparative Law in Africa
University of Pretoria

Cora Hoexter
Professor of Law
University of the Witwatersrand School of Law

Baroness Helena Ann Kennedy QC
Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws
Justice of the British arm of the International Commission of Jurists
Principal of Mansfield College Oxford

Karim A. A. Khan QC
International Human Rights Lawyer
Temple Garden Chambers
Former Legal Advisor in the Office of the Prosecutor in the United Nations
International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda

Piet Meiring

Emeritus Professor of Theology

University of Pretoria

Former member of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Juan E. Mendez
Professor of Human Rights Law in Residence
Washington College of Law
Former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture

Sir Geoffrey Nice QC
Professor of Law
Gresham College
Former UN Prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia

Michael J. Perry
Robert W. Woodruff Professor of Law
Emory University School of Law

Niels Petersen
Professor of Public Law, International and European Law
University of Münster

Catherine Powell

Professor of Law

Fordham Law School

René Provost
Professor of Law
Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism
McGill University

Jaya Ramji-Nogales
Associate Dean for Academic Affairs
I. Herman Stern Research Professor
Temple University, Beasley School of Law

Ingo Wolfgang Sarlet
Professor of Constitutional Law
Pontifical Catholic University
Judge of the Rio Grande do Sul State Appeals Court

Soli Sorabjee
Senior Advocate
Supreme Court of India
Former Attorney General for India

Patrick Thornberry, CMG
Emeritus Professor of International Law
Keele University
Former member of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Hildebrando Tadeu Valadares
Ambassador (ret.) of Brazil

Johan D. van der Vyver
I. T. Cohen Professor of International Law and Human Rights
Emory University School of Law

View Persian text of this story.

View the article published by the Times.