U.N. human rights experts expressed grave concern Friday about Iran’s continued detention of Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian and called on authorities in Tehran to release him immediately.
“The arrest, detention and secret trial of Mr. Rezaian violate his rights and intimidate all those working in the media in Iran,” said David Kaye, the U.N. special rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression. “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.”
Two other U.N. human rights experts, including the head of the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, backed calls for Rezaian’s release.
Their statements came as the Working Group, a component of the U.N. Human Rights Council, considered an “urgent action” request that The Post submitted last month on the first anniversary of Rezaian’s arrest. Also reviewing the request were five U.N. special rapporteurs, two of whom joined Friday’s appeal to Iran to free Rezaian.
The Post formally petitioned the U.N. Working Group for help in securing Rezaian’s release, accusing the Iranian government of flagrant human rights violations during the “arbitrary and unlawful” detention of the journalist.
Martin Baron, executive editor of The Post, said in a statement that the independent U.N. experts have “sounded a powerful call for the government of Iran to uphold its international legal obligations in a case that has been anything but just.”
“This call by three U.N. human rights experts comes at a critical moment, with Jason facing a verdict any day in Iran’s Revolutionary Court on nonsensical and unsupportable charges that include espionage,” Baron said. “The statement upholds our view that Iran’s conduct in this contemptible case has violated international law, Iran’s own laws, and fundamental human decency.”
Baron added: “This is a call that Iran must heed. The experts, including the current head of the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, are independent, highly-regarded specialists from a variety of countries appointed by the United Nations to play leading roles on issues involving the freedom of opinion and expression, arbitrary detention and on human rights in Iran.”
The U.N. human rights experts noted that Rezaian has been accused in secret proceedings of “espionage, collaboration with hostile governments, gathering classified information and disseminating propaganda against the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
Rezaian “seems to have been detained for the simple fact of having exercised his rights to freedom of expression, association and political participation,” said Seong-Phil Hong, a human rights expert who heads the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. “His rights to legal counsel of his choice and to due process of law seem to have been forgotten.”
Ahmed Shaheed, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, urged Iran to ensure that journalists do not face prosecution for their reporting. “Mr. Rezaian’s case is part of a broader crackdown on freedom of expression in Iran,” he said. “Journalists must be protected, not harassed, detained or prosecuted.”
Shaheed and Kaye are among the five special rapporteurs who are reviewing The Post’s request for help.
In their statement Friday, Shaheed, Kaye and Hong said Rezaian was placed in solitary confinement for five months and subjected to full-day interrogation sessions that caused significant physical and psychological strain, including dramatic weight loss, respiratory problems and chronic infections. “He has suffered unlawful treatment during his year-long incarceration,” Hong said.
“We urge the Iranian government to release Mr. Rezaian as well as all those exercising their rights to expression who have been arbitrarily arrested, detained and prosecuted,” the human rights experts said in the joint release.
The statement said the experts “are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.”
The Post hopes that the U.N. Working Group “will soon take further action in response to our petition and issue a separate urgent appeal to Iran . . . and demand that Iran immediately release him,” Baron said in his statement.