November 2, 2012
Concerned about the worrying situation of Ms. Nasrin Sotoudeh, a courageous lawyer currently imprisoned in Iran for defending her political prisoner clients, the ICC wrote a letter to John Baird, Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs, to urge Canadian involvement in the case. Ms. Sotoudeh, a recent winner of the European Parliament's prestigious Sakharov Prize, has been on hunger strike to protest her conditions of detention. Her case is of tremendous concern to Iranian-Canadians. The text of the ICC's letter to Minister Baird is below.
The Honourable John Baird, P.C., M.P.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs
RE: Nasrin Sotoudeh in Dire Need of Human Rights Support
NOVEMBER 2, 2012
Dear Minister Baird,
I write to you on behalf of the Iranian Canadian Congress (“ICC”), an organization devoted to protecting the rights of Iranian-Canadians and promoting their engagement in civic life in Canada.
I want to draw your urgent attention to the situation of Nasrin Sotoudeh, a prominent attorney unlawfully held in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison since September 2010. Mrs. Sotoudeh has been taken to the infirmary in Evin prison after a hunger strike she began on October 17, 2012 caused her to fall ill. Members of the Iranian-Canadian community have expressed deep concern for Ms. Sotoudeh's health and have requested that the ICC bring the issue to your attention.
Ms. Sotoudeh is the recent winner of the prestigious Sakharov Prize awarded by the European Parliament, but remains imprisoned in Iran for her courageous legal representation of political prisoners. She has represented, among others, Ms. Shirin Ebadi, the 2003 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. Through her work and imprisonment, Sotoudeh has become an icon of defiance and resistance against the Iranian regime’s unjust actions.
Reports indicate that she plans to be on hunger strike until her family's basic human rights are respected. Examples of pressure on her family abound. Iranian authorities have banned her twelve year-old daughter from leaving the country. Furthermore, Ms. Sotoudeh's own basic rights as a prisoner are repeatedly violated. Amnesty International reports that in the last three months, Ms. Sotoudeh has been deprived of visits with her family after prison authorities had discovered her writing a defense in connection with her upcoming court hearing. She has also been deprived of making phone calls for the past year. Iranian authorities deprive Nasrin Sotoudeh of her basic human rights because she continues to seek the path of justice and the rule of law.
On behalf of the Iranian-Canadian community, I urge you to remind and warn the Iranian authorities that they remain accountable for Nasrin Sotoudeh's life. It is the responsibility of the Iranian authorities to respect the basic human rights of Ms. Sotoudeh and her family. Ms. Sotoudeh should not be forced to compromise her health to obtain justice.
We further urge you to use all tools at your disposal to pressure Iranian authorities to respect the rights and fulfill the legitimate demands of the political prisoners, including Ms. Sotoudeh. Similar steps have been taken in the past week by likeminded countries. On Saturday, October 27, 2012, European Parliament members called off a planned visit to Tehran after Iranian authorities refused to allow them to meet, among others, with Ms. Sotoudeh. Last Friday, Secretary Clinton published a statement to congratulate Ms. Sotoudeh for receiving the Sakharov Prize. The US Secretary of State called on the Iranian regime to "release Sotoudeh immediately…and release all political prisoners and others detained simply for their religious or political beliefs." British Foreign Secretary William Hague also issued a statement calling on the Iranian regime to reconsider Ms. Sotoudeh's prison sentence. He described her detention as 'outrageous' and 'deplorable'. The EU's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, followed up Mr. Hague's call with a similar statement. She reminded the Iranian authorities they should "respect [their] human rights obligations."
The ICC encourages your government to pursue a similar policy and to continue with various efforts in international forums to hold the regime in Iran accountable for its human rights violations.
Members of the ICC would be happy to discuss this, or other human rights issues, with your or your staff at your convenience.
Iranian Canadian Congress
CC: The Honourable Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism