La Herradura (Spain) 23 Dec. (IPS) The international community has severely condemned the Iranian Government over the brutal closure of the Centre of Human Rights Defenders, the sole such organization in the Islamic Republic of Iran, on 21 December by the Police, special security guards and plainclothes agents, acting on orders from the Tehran and Islamic Revolution Tribunal Prosecutor.
“We planned to organize a simple event on the occasion of the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But Intelligence Ministry agents, the police and plain-clothes forces surrounded our offices that day. Tens of camouflaged cars equipped with cameras filled the surrounding streets. The size of the police and security agents in the Yusefabad area was unbelievably large. Eventually about 10 to 15 of these agents entered the building without warning. We tried to stop them and asked for a warrant. They not only ignored our demands but even verbally attacked and abused me and others. One of them was so violent that other agents had to restrain him before he attacked me. Eventually, they shut the offices, sealed the doors and threw us out”, Mrs. Nargues Mohammadi, the Deputy Director of the Centre told the Paris and London-based independent, pro-reform internet daily Rooz.
A policeman said he was not obliged to show a warrant because he was wearing a police uniform"
"A policeman said he was not obliged to show a warrant because he was wearing a police uniform", Mohammadi told Reuters.
“Since all the equipment in the offices is in their hands, we shall not accept anything that they may later claim. The security agents did not allow us to prepare a list of the items in the offices and have them signed”, she told Rooz online.
The authorities say the Centre had no authorization for activity and has accused it of “contact with the press, prominent Iranian and foreign personalities and organizations, organizing press conferences, publishing and distributing communiqués etc”, activities considered as “against the interests and security of the State”.
"The center was acting as a [political] party without having legal permit", the semi official Mehr news agency, close to the Supreme council of National Security the reported, adding: "It had illegal contacts with local and foreign organizations. It had organized news conferences and seminars".
"Carpenters, grocers, bakers and even lawyers need to have legal work permits," the spokesman, Hassan Qashqavi, said in the IRNA report. "By the same token, an organization such as the Defenders of Human Rights should also have a legal permit for its activities
"The fact that this center has been working for several years without a permit is testimony to the tolerance of the Islamic Republic."
One of policement was so violent that other agents had to restrain him before he attacked me, Mohammadi said.
But in an interview with Miss Farangis Najibullah of the Prague based Radio Free Europe- Radio Liberty, the outspoken lawyer and human rights activist Ebadi said: "Now everybody knows that if the Iranian government cannot tolerate the human rights activities of a laureate of the Nobel Peace Prize, it will not tolerate anybody else".
Ebadi said she believes the office of human rights centre in Tehran was raided and closed by Iranian authorities in retaliation for its influence with the United Nations.
"We were not given any official explanation, but I can guess what their reason was", Ebadi told RFE/RL. "For the past two years, the Iranian government has not been allowing UN human rights observers to enter the country. And, therefore, all the reports we have been submitting about violations of human rights in Iran have been attracting significant attention from the international community", she stressed.
According to Mrs. Mohammadi, the Centre is active in regular reporting on the violations of human rights in Iran; the provision of free legal defense to ideological and political defendants; and, defense of family members of political and ideological prisoners.
Ebadi, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003, confirmed, saying that in his report to the UN General Assembly about the human rights situation in Iran, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon cited assessments by Ebadi herself and reports by the Center of Human Rights Defenders.
"Following his report, the UN General Assembly condemned Iran for its violation of human rights. This was the main reason for [Iranian officials] to close down our office", said Ebadi.
The authorities say the Centre was engaged in activities “against the interests and security of the State”, like contact with the press, organizing press conferences, publishing and distributing communiqués etc”.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said the EU "calls on Iranian authorities to respecttheir international human rights commitments and the right to peaceful assembly."
The French presidency of the European Union condemned Iran "firmly and vigorously" for the closure.
In a statement on 22 December, Mr. Kouchner called on Iran to reopen the center and "give it the legal status it has been requesting for many years".
Under the French presidency that ends in few days, the European Union has increased its pressures over the theological regime of the Iranian ayatollahs, condemning particularly statements by the fanatic Iranian President for “wiping off Israel from the map of the world”.
President Nicolas Sarkozy particularly angered Tehran when, on the occasion of the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, he said he would not “sit on the same table and talk to a man who wants to annihilate Israel”.
In Washington, White House spokesman Tony Fratto said he was troubled by the reports that the center had been closed.
French Foreign Affairs Minister Bernard Kouchner urged Tehran to re open the Iranian Human rights Centre.
"We believe that these individuals are incredibly courageous to stand up in a society like Iran for the rights of their fellow citizens. So it's something that we're obviously paying attention to", Fratto said.
The ruling Iranian clerics have an ambivalent attitude towards internatkional treaties: Though they have signed the United Nations Charter of Universal Human Rights, they do not accept its universality and claim that each nation has its own human rights values, those of the Islamic Republic being those of Islam, a religion that considers women as second class huma beings, members of other faiths as inferor to Muslims etc...
"In fact, the Iranian ayatollahs wants the world to their own taste and values", says one of Mrs. Ebadi's colleagues at the ICDHR.
Ebadi said she plans to explore "all legal avenues" in an effort to reverse the decision of the authorities. "If Iranian courts do not give us that right, then I will ask international sources to help us in this regard," she said.
Both Ebadi and Mohammadi said the closure will not stop them and her colleagues from carrying out their work, however.
"Our activities as defenders of human rights have never depended on one office or a building", Ebadi said. "We will rent another place and continue our work. We will continue our activities to defend human rights as long as we are alive".
In the end, she said, the closure of her offices, rather than discouraging human rights activities inside Iran, may actually serve to promote and publicize the cause. "Therefore, other [human rights defenders] will increase their activities". ENDS HUMAN RIGHTS 231208