The United Nations UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet has expressed deep concern at the deteriorating situation of human rights defenders, lawyers and political prisoners held in Iran’s prisons and called on the Iranian authorities to ensure their release in times of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Under international human rights law, States are responsible for the well-being, as well as the physical and mental health, of everyone in their care, including everyone deprived of their liberty,” Bachelet said. “People detained solely for their political views or other forms of activism in support of human rights should not be imprisoned at all, and such prisoners, should certainly not be treated more harshly or placed at greater risk.”
“I am disturbed to see how measures designed to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 have been used in a discriminatory way against this specific group of prisoners,” she added
“It is disheartening to see the use of the criminal justice system as a tool to silence civil society. Expressing dissent is not a crime. It is a fundamental right that should be protected and upheld,” Bachelet said.
“I urge the Iranian Government to review, in light of Iran’s international legal obligations — including the right to a fair trial — all sentences of people detained without sufficient legal basis. And I call for the unconditional release of human rights defenders, lawyers, political prisoners, peaceful protesters and all other individuals deprived of their liberty for expressing their views or otherwise exercising their rights,” the High Commissioner said. “It is particularly important to rectify such injustices at a time when COVID-19 is coursing through Iran’s prisons.”