The following is based on a communication written by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and other UN experts to the Government of Iran on 20 December 2021. The communication remained confidential for 60 days before being made public, during which time the Government was expected to respond. The Government did not respond during this period, and any reply, if sent, will be available on the UN communications database.
This is a shorter version of the original communication.
Topic: the re-arrest of human rights defender Ms. Narges Mohammadi.
Ms. Narges Mohammadi is a human rights defender and deputy director of the Defenders of Human Rights Centre (DHRC). She was sentenced to 16 years in prison in September 2016, of which she was to serve a maximum of 10 years. She was released early, in October 2020. During her time in detention, she became a vocal advocate for prisoner rights, in particular against the death penalty and the use of prolonged periods in solitary confinement.
Ms. Mohammadi has been the subject of seven previous communications (IRN 12/2021, IRN 6/2020, IRN 6/2019, IRN 21/2016, IRN 8/2016, IRN 20/2015 and IRN 5/2015) by Special Procedures mandate holders. Her previous period in detention had been the subject of Opinion 48/2017 by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which found her detention to be arbitrary and urged for her to be released. The most recent communication on her case, IRN 12/2021 was sent on 6 May 2021. It reported that despite her release in early October 2020, she remained under investigation for “disturbing prison order” in relation to her advocacy for prisoner rights during her previous term in detention. We regret that no reply has yet been received to this communication.
On 22 May 2021, Ms. Mohammadi was informed that she had been convicted of “propaganda against the state” under Article 500 of the Iranian Penal Code, and sentenced to 30 months in prison, 80 lashes and two fines, one amounting to 100 million IRR, and the other yet undetermined. She was sentenced by Branch 1177 of Tehran Criminal Court. The charges are largely related to “disturbing prison order” specifically, accusations that she held a sit-in protest, insulted and disobeyed prison personnel and shared information about the death penalty and acts of torture, and broke windows in the prison. Ms. Mohammadi chose not to participate in the court proceedings as she believed the charges against her were related to her human rights work.
On 26 September 2021, Ms. Mohammadi was summoned to serve her sentence, though she refused to present herself. On 16 November 2021, Ms. Mohammadi was violently arrested, without the presentation of a warrant, while attending a ceremony in the city of Karaj on the second anniversary of the death of a protester during the nation-wide protests of 2019. She was informed that her 30 month sentence of May 2021 would take immediate effect.
On 17 November 2021, Ms. Mohammadi was sent to solitary confinement in Ward 2A of Evin prison, where she remains at the time of writing. Ward 2A is controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
On 22 November 2021, Ms. Mohammadi was brought before Shahid Moqadas Court, in Evin prison, where she was reportedly presented with new charges against her. The exact charges are unclear at the time of writing, though they reportedly relate to human rights activities that she engaged in during the time that she was released from prison between October 2020 and November 2021.
Among the list of activities which the court stated she was under investigation for, are her participation in a memorial event for victims of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, and her work sharing testimonies of prisoners who faced prolonged pre-trial detention, ill-treatment and sexual abuse in prison.
In the communication we expressed our concern at the re-arrest and detention of Ms. Mohammadi, after just over a year following her release from prison. We are deeply disturbed that she seems to have been incarcerated once again in relation to her human rights work, this time for her peaceful advocacy for the rights of prisoners while in detention. Particularly concerning are reports that Ms. Mohammadi has been held in solitary confinement, where she remains at the time of writing. Ms. Mohammadi had campaigned against the use of prolonged periods in solitary confinement during her previous term in prison, after witnessing the effects it had on other prisoners, which may amount to ill-treatment or torture. Additionally concerning are allegations that Ms. Mohammadi faces additional charges, related to activities that she engaged in following her release from prison in October 2020. We are deeply concerned by this continuous cycle of persecution, which appears to criminalise Ms. Mohammadi for her critical or dissenting opinions.