U.N. Group Says Iran Violated Rights of Two Detained Americans
A father and son sentenced to 10 years for alleged ‘collusion’ with the United States were denied a fair trial.
An independent U.N. human rights body has ruled that Iran’s detention and prosecution of two American-Iranian nationals violated their internationally recognized right to a fair trial. It has called for their immediate release.
The Sept. 5 ruling by the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which was made public Monday, comes just days before U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is expected to sit down for talks over Tehran’s nuclear program with Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and representatives of other key powers.
The high-level meeting will take place against a backdrop of rising tension within the Trump Administration over the course of U.S. relations with Iran. Tillerson and other key national security officials have pressed the president to recertify the nuclear deal, fearing that a break with the pact will put a wedge between the United States and some of its closest allies.
But the working group’s findings will add fuel to the cause of administration hardliners, including Trump, who campaigned on a promise of killing the nuclear pact, and who will likely relish an opportunity portray Iran as a rogue state on the eve of President Hassan Rouhani’s visit to New York for the UN General Assembly debate.
Siamak Namazi, an oil executive with dual American-Iranian nationality, was arrested in October 2015, and charged with serving as a foreign spy and collaborating “with a hostile government.”
His 81-year-old father Mohammed Baquer Namazi, a former UNICEF official who also holds dual U.S.-Iranian citizenship, was arrested in February 2016 at the Tehran Airport while attempting to visit his son at the notorious Evin prison. He was charged with the same crime.
They were both sentenced to ten years in prison for “collusion with an enemy state”– an apparent reference to the United States.
In a statement released Monday morning, Siamak’s brother, Babak, said “I am incredibly gratified that the United Nations has found the detention of my father and brother illegal. This shows unequivocally what we have known all along: that they have done nothing wrong.”
“This decision explains in detail precisely why the detention of the Namazis illegal and in violation of international law,” said Jared Genser, the family’s attorney. “It is time for Iran to resolve these cases and allow the Namazis to be reunited with their family.”
The working group’s findings are based largely on evidence presented by a lawyer for the Namazi family. The Iranian government did not respond to the group’s requests for comment. The Iranian mission to the United Nations did not respond to a request for comment.
The report claims that the younger Namazi has been kept in a “dark, cold and humid” cell with no bed, and once went on a hunger strike. He has been subject to lengthy interrogations by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.”His conversations with his family raise serious concerns that he may now be suicidal,” the account states.
The elder Namazi — who suffers from “serious heart conditions” and had previously underwent triple bypass surgery — has been subjected to “extensive periods of solitary confinement.” In June, U.N. Secretary General Antonio Gutteres wrote a confidential letter to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani seeking the father’s release on humanitarian grounds.
The working group said that Namazis’ representatives have established “a prima facie case” that Iran has violated international law barring arbitrary detention and that the burden of proof to refute the allegations rests with authorities in Tehran. It also asserted that the Namazis had been deprived of their right to a fair trial because they not able to examine witnesses and evidence.
“The working group considers that there is an emerging pattern involving the arbitrary deprivation of liberty of duals nationals in the Islamic Republic of Iran,” the report stated. It concludes the “Namazis were targeted” on the basis of their dual U.S.-Iranian nationality.
Photo credit: CARLOS BARRIA/AFP/Getty Images