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UN Experts Deeply Concerned About Arrest of Women's Rights Defenders

  5 April 2007

The following statement was issued today by Yakin Ertürk, Special Rapporteur of the United Nations Human Rights Council on Violence against Women, its Causes and Consequences; Ambeyi Ligabo, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of expression and opinion, and Hina Jilani, the Special Representative of the Secretary General on the situation of human rights defenders:

We express our deep concern about reports that Iranian security agents arrested four women and one man on 3 April 2007 in Laleh Park in Tehran, where the five had been collecting signatures for a campaign to change Iranian laws that discriminate against women.

According to the latest information we have received, the man and two of the women have been released on bail, whereas the other two women, Nahid Keshavarz and Mahboubeh Hoseinzadeh, remained in detention at Evin Prison. We call on the responsible Iranian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release the two women.

We note that the arrest of the five persons acting as human rights defenders is not a singular incident, but forms part of an ongoing, worrying trend. Iranian women and men who have peacefully demonstrated or otherwise stood up for gender equality and women's rights have been arrested or attacked on several occasions, including on International Women's Day 2006 and on 4 March 2007, when at least 31 women activists were arrested during a peaceful gathering in front of the Islamic Revolutionary Court in Tehran. Some factions within the Government of Iran seem determined to deny women's rights defenders their human rights to freedom of expression, to peaceful assembly, and to liberty and security of the person.

We recall that the Government must abide by its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a State Party.