European Parliament criticises Iran’s use of ‘national security’ laws

European Parliament criticises Iran’s use of ‘national security’ laws

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The European Parliament has called on Iran to “amend” the national-security crime laws “regularly used to prosecute human rights defenders, journalists, environmental and trade union activists and members of religious and ethnic minorities”.

In a resolution passed yesterday on the human rights situation in Iran, the European Parliament says Iran’s national-security laws “contravene the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights ratified by Iran”, which it says Iran should implement in a “full” and “unreserved” way.

The European Parliament also calls on Iran to “cooperate” with the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran, Javaid Rehman, “including by allowing him to enter the country”.

Its resolution, which focuses primarily on the rights of protesters, human rights defenders and dual nationals, highlights Mr Rehman’s reports of September 2018, January 2019 and July 2019, the last of which focused strongly on Iran’s failure to uphold religious freedom.

Mr Rehman’s July report called on Iran to “refrain from targeting members of recognized and non-recognized religious minorities with national security-related charges”, to “refrain from persecuting peaceful religious gatherings in private homes and other premises, refrain from convicting religious leaders and cease the monitoring of citizens on account of their religious identity”,and to “end the criminalisation of the peaceful expression of faith”.

As Article18 has reported, Iran frequently charges active Christians – particularly converts from a Muslim background – with “actions against national security”. Such charges often result in lengthy sentences of up to ten years in prison, as in the case of Assyrian pastor Victor Bet-Tamraz and three Christian converts who attended church services at his home.

Mr Rehman’s latest report also called for due process and fair-trial guarantees, “including access to a lawyer of their choosing” to be afforded to all persons accused of a crime – a call echoed in the European Parliament resolution. 

Article18 reported recently on the case of five Christian converts whose bail amounts were increased tenfold after they insisted on choosing their own lawyer. The European Parliament resolution calls for an amendment to Article 48 of the Iranian Criminal Procedure Law, which it says is being used “to restrict detainees’ access to legal counsel of their own choice and to deny them consular assistance”. 

The resolution adds that there are “no independent mechanisms for ensuring accountability within the judiciary”.

The European Parliament is also critical of Iran’s treatment of its prisoners, including the “continuous practice of intentionally denying medical care to prisoners”, with Tehran’s Evin Prison singled out for its “degrading” and “inhumane” conditions.

Several Christians are currently incarcerated in Evin Prison, including Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani and three members of his Rasht church, and Nasser Navard Gol-Tapeh, all of whom are serving ten-year sentences. Nasser, who is 20 months into his sentence, has complained at being denied medical care during his time in prison. 

The European Parliament resolution also “deplores” the “systematic torture in Iranian prisons”; calls for the “immediate cessation of all forms of torture and ill-treatment of all detainees”; and “condemns the practice of denying access to phone calls and family visits for detainees”.

The resolution concludes by calling on the EU to “continue raising human rights concerns with the Iranian authorities in bilateral and multilateral fora and to use all planned engagements with the Iranian authorities for that purpose”.