November 14, 2017—European governments’ blithe disregard for mounting human rights violations in Iran ever since the signing of the nuclear deal in 2015 is giving a green light to further rights abuses in the country.
This approach has emboldened Iran’s security establishment to intensify its rights violations in the country, imprison more dual nationals for use as bargaining chips with the West, and engage in increasingly brazen extra-territorial actions, such as pressuring Iranian nationals based abroad with asset seizures, threats of arrest and coercion to carry out espionage.
“The European governments’ deafening silence on human rights violations in Iran not only encourages further rights abuses, it endangers European citizens who travel to Iran,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the Center or Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).
From November 25-28, 2017, a delegation of EU Parliament members will travel to Tehran to meet with their Iranian counterparts. CHRI urges these MPs to use this opportunity to directly address Iranian officials on these rights violations.
“European politicians traveling to Iran should hold the torch on human rights and let Iranian authorities know that human rights will not be sidelined while business carries on as usual,” said Ghaemi.
“Failure to do so will give Iran’s security establishment, including the Revolutionary Guards, the green light to further harass and imprison victims like Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, with no accountability or available path to resolution,” he added.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe, an Iranian-British dual national, was sentenced to five years in prison in Tehran in April 2016 on unspecified national security charges.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has arrested at least 30 dual nationals in Iran since the signing of the nuclear deal in July 2015, according to a Reuter’s investigation. Research by CHRI shows that at least 12 dual and foreign nationals, as well as permanent residents, were in prison in Iran as of October 2017 without due process.
The Iranian judiciary’s launch of a criminal investigation earlier this year of 152 current and former staff members of BBC Persian based outside Iran reflects the authorities’ growing willingness to extend its repression and the denial of freedom of expression beyond the country’s own borders.
In 2009, most foreign reporters were forced to leave Iran after they covered the widespread, peaceful protests against the disputed presidential election that year. Now, state officials are trying to intimidate reporters based outside the country by creating criminal records for them in absentia.
The British government took more than a year to condemn Iran’s imprisonment of British-Iranian dual national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who was sentenced to five years in prison on unspecified espionage charges, and it has said nothing about Iran’s criminal investigation of BBC Persian staff.
Several Iranian nationals who pursued graduate degrees outside the country have also stated that Iranian security forces repeatedly tried to pressure them into conducting espionage for Iran. Ahmedreza Djalali, an Iranian-born Swedish resident and disaster medicine expert who was arrested in Iran in April 2016 and is now facing the death penalty, says he was imprisoned because he refused to spy for the Intelligence Ministry.
Iran is eager to attract foreign investment from European companies. European governments’ silence on the imprisonment of its citizens in Iran on trumped-up charges and after prosecutions lacking any semblance of due process will serve to place any dual national traveling to the country at greater risk.
“European governments successfully used their leverage with Iran to help get the nuclear deal signed,” said Ghaemi. “They need to use that same level of focus, energy, and leverage in defending human rights, or they will be seriously undermining their long-term interests in Iran.”
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