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Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

Iran should heed the UN and end illegal house arrest of opposition leaders

On four-year anniversary of house arrest, human rights groups call on international community to speak out

The Iranian government should release opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi, and Zahra Rahnavard from their extra-judicial house arrest in compliance with the opinion by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, 10 human rights organizations stated today on the fourth anniversary of the political leaders’ detention. These rights organizations (listed below) also urged the international community to continue to call on the Islamic Republic of Iran to heed the opinion of the Working Group to immediately and unconditionally end the illegal house arrest of the political leaders.

“The house arrest of Mr. Mousavi, Mr. Karroubi and Ms. Rahvanard is against Iran’s international obligations as well as its own national laws,” said Dr. Shirin Ebadi, the Nobel Peace Laureate and Founder and President of the Iranian human rights organization, the Centre for Supporters of Human Rights. “After four years of house arrest the Iranian authorities refuse to bring any charges against these individuals, which shows that this is a political, and not a judicial, calculation.”

This February marks the fourth anniversary of the house arrests. The Iranian authorities detained Mousavi, Rahnavard and Karroubi in their homes on the 14th of February 2011, after the three called for a peaceful demonstration in support of Arab Spring events taking place in Egypt and Tunisia. They had requested a permit, which was denied. At the time, Mousavi argued that in accordance with the Iranian constitution (Article 27), peaceful political rallies in Iran do not require any permission from the government.

Mousavi, former Iranian Prime Minister, and Karroubi, former Speaker of Parliament, were both candidates in the disputed 2009 presidential elections. Rahnavard is Mousavi’s wife and a prominent academic and political figure.

Since being detained, the opposition leaders have not received any judicial process. No charges have been brought against them, they have not been tried, and they have been denied access to lawyers. They have repeatedly called for trials in accordance with Iran’s laws and its constitution, but to no avail.

On August 29, 2012, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention determined that their house arrest was arbitrary and thus illegal under Iran’s international legal obligations. The decision came in response to submissions filed by the International Campaign Human Rights in Iran, International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Iranian League for the Defence of Human Rights (LDDHI). The Working Group determined that the house arrests were arbitrary because they had no legal basis and because the three individuals had not been afforded a fair trial. The Working Group also found the detention arbitrary because it resulted from the exercise of the rights guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a state party. The Working Groups explained:

“[The detainees] met their present fate due to the exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and opinion and participation in the political activities of the country.”

Over the past year, officials including Head of the Judiciary Sadegh Larijani and Justice Minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi have cited an order by the Supreme National Security Council as the legal justification for the house arrest of the three political leaders. Yet, the Council is not a judicial body, and as such the detainees cannot challenge the order and subject it to judicial review.

The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention is an independent UN body mandated to investigate cases of deprivation of liberty alleged to be illegal or arbitrary according to international human rights conventions. Between 2008 and 2013, in a total of 13 opinions, the Working Group has declared 36 cases of detention in Iran to be arbitrary, including the imprisonment of seven community leaders from the Baha’i Faith community, human rights lawyer Mr. Abdolfatah Soltani, and Kurdish journalist Mohamad Sadigh Kaboudvand.

“Iran has consistently ignored the opinions of the Working Group to release individuals arbitrarily detained in Iran’s prisons,” stressed Dr. Ebadi. “It is time the international community spoke out and called on the government of Iran to end these house arrests and all arbitrary detentions in the country.”

The 10 human rights organizations below specifically call the following UN bodies to look into the Islamic Republic’s ongoing house arrest of Mousavi, Karroubi and Rahnavard and the government’s failure to address the Working Group’s opinion:

The High Commissioner for Human Rights;

The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran;

The Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression and opinion;

The Special Rapporteur on freedom of association and peaceful assembly;

The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention;

The Members-states of the Human Rights Council.

Iran Human Rights Documentation Center
International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran
Impact Iran
Ensemble contre la peine de mort (ECPM)
Centre for Supporters of Human Rights
Association of Human Rights in Kurdistan of Iran-Geneva
Arseh Sevom 
Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation



Opinion of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention

Video on the House Arrest

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