UN experts call on Iran to release journalist Jason Rezaian as he awaits verdict
“We urge the Iranian Government to release Rezaian as well as all those exercising their rights to expression who have been arbitrarily arrested, detained and prosecuted,” the human rights experts in a press release.
“The arrest, detention and secret trial of Rezaian violate his rights and intimidate all those working in the media in Iran,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye.
He said, “His continued detention violates basic rules that not only aim to protect journalists, bloggers, human rights activists and others but to guarantee everyone’s right to information.”
Iranian authorities detained Rezaian and his wife, Yeganeh Salehi, over a year ago, though she was subsequently released. In secret proceedings, he has reportedly been accused of espionage, collaboration with hostile governments, gathering classified information and disseminating propaganda against the Islamic Republic of Iran.
“Mr. Rezaian seems to have been detained for the simple fact of having exercised his rights to freedom of expression, association and political participation,” noted Seong-Phil Hong, who currently heads the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.
He added, “His rights to legal counsel of his choice and to due process of law seem to have been forgotten.”
Rezaian’s trial has been held closed to the public and even his close relatives and he was deprived of his right to consular visitation.
The journalist has had no opportunity to present witnesses or evidence in his defence, or to examine and challenge witnesses and evidence against him.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, reminded the Iranian Government of its responsibility to ensure that journalists do not face prosecution for exercising their professional activities.
“Mr. Rezaian’s case is part of a broader crackdown on freedom of expression in Iran. Journalists must be protected, not harassed, detained or prosecuted,” he stressed.
Rezaian, who is being held at Evin Prison in Tehran, was placed in solitary confinement for five months and subjected to full-day interrogation sessions that caused significant physical and psychological strain. These conditions have resulted in Rezaian’s dramatic weight loss, respiratory problems, and chronic infections.
Independent experts or special rapporteurs are appointed by the Geneva-based Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.
Photo: UNAIDS/D. Gutu