Iran: Lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh brutally beaten and arrested during the funeral of a young Iranian woman
30 October 2023
Repeatedly subjected to relentless harassment by the Iranian government, Iranian lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, winner of the Ludovic Trarieux prize in 2018, was arrested and severely beaten while attending the funeral of Armita Garavand, who died following her arrest for “not wearing a headscarf”.
The Iranian authorities are now accusing the lawyer of “disturbing the mental security of society”, according to the justification invoked by the regime. The lawyer is also accused of not having worn her headscarf during the ceremony.
Nasrin Sotoudeh is deeply committed to the fight for women’s rights, the rights of political prisoners and the abolition of the death penalty in Iran. After being imprisoned for 2 years, she began a hunger strike in August 2020, calling for the release of political prisoners in Iran.
After being sentenced to 38 years’ imprisonment and 148 lashes, the lawyer was placed under house arrest for health reasons, but banned from practising her profession.
Reza Khandan, her husband, was also arrested in February 2023 on charges of “spreading propaganda against the system” and “colluding to commit crimes against national security”.
On 29 October 2023, Nasrin Sotoudeh was severely beaten and imprisoned in Vozara prison, where Mahsa Jina Amini had been held the previous year. She was then due to be transferred to Evin prison, where the Iranian government holds political prisoners. However, having refused to wear her headscarf to step out of the police van, Ms Sotoudeh was transferred to Carchak women’s prison, according to information received by her husband.
The lawyer is deprived of any means of communicating with the outside world, is not allowed visitors and is at risk of inhuman and degrading treatment.
Nasrin Sotoudeh, whose precarious state of health was a worrying factor in the past, is said to have recently started a new hunger strike, but without access to medical treatment. The brutality inflicted on the lawyer by the authorities will undoubtedly have a major impact on her health.
The Observatory expresses its deep concern about the deteriorating health of Nasrin Sotoudeh, attributing this situation to the negligence of the Iranian authorities.
The Observatory strongly condemns the arbitrary arrest of the lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh.
The Observatory urges the Iranian authorities to stop harassing the lawyer.
The Observatory recalls that, in accordance with the basic principles of the United Nations relating to the role of the Bar, in particular principles 17, 18, 23 and 27:
Principle 17: “Where the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their functions, they shall be adequately safeguarded by the authorities.”
Principle 18: “Lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their clients’ causes as a result of discharging their functions.”
Principle 23: “Lawyers like other citizens are entitled to freedom of expression, belief, association and assembly. In particular, they shall have the right to take part in public discussion of matters concerning the law, the administration of justice and the promotion and protection of human rights and to join or form local, national or international organizations and attend their meetings, without suffering professional restrictions by reason of their lawful action or their membership in a lawful organization. In exercising these rights, lawyers shall always conduct themselves in accordance with the law and the recognized standards and ethics of the legal profession.”
Principle 27: “Charges or complaints made against lawyers in their professional capacity shall be processed expeditiously and fairly under appropriate procedures. Lawyers shall have the right to a fair hearing, including the right to be assisted by a lawyer of their choice.”
16 November 2023
The Observatory was greatly relieved to learn about the release of lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh by the Iranian authorities on 15 November 2023, after more than two weeks in detention.
Human rights defender and Nasrin Sotoudeh’s husband, Reza Khandan, announced his wife’s release on bail by the authorities.
The 60-year-old lawyer was arrested while attending the funeral of Armita Garvand, a 16-year-old girl of Kurdish origin who was the victim of the morality police for “not wearing a headscarf”. The Iranian authorities had severely beaten Nasrin Sotoudeh before arresting her.
The Observatory maintains its firm condemnation of the persistent harassment suffered by human rights lawyers in Iran.
The Observatory recalls that the case of Nasrin Sotoudeh is far from isolated;
The Observatory remains concerned about the fate of Ms Sotoudeh, given the persistent acts of persecution to which she is subjected;
The Observatory expresses its deep concern about her health, which continues to give rise to the most serious worries.
The Observatory urges the Islamic Republic of Iran to comply with international human rights law given the persistent abuses committed against many human rights lawyers.