Iran: Iran outlaws human rights group in new crackdown

The Independent
In a new move to stifle dissent, the Iranian government has decided to outlaw a legal support group headed by Shirin Ebadi, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning human rights lawyer.
Iran's Interior Ministry declared Mrs Ebadi's Centre for Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) an illegal organisation as it did not apply for a proper permit - an excuse often used by the Iranian authorities to close down dissident groups.
"Any activity by this centre is illegal, and violators of this decision will be prosecuted," a statement issued by the Interior Ministry said.

The banning of CDHR is a major setback for human rights in Iran as Mrs Ebadi regularly gives free counsel to hundreds of dissidents, journalists and academics arrested for speaking out against the regime. Mrs Ebadi's group also figured in a number of highly volatile political cases including the death in custody of the Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi in June 2003 and the imprisonment of the human rights activist Akbar Ganji. "If Ebadi is threatened for defending human rights, then no one who works for human rights can feel safe from government prosecution," said Sarah Leah Whitson, director of Human Rights Watch's Middle East division.

Last month Iran's Revolutionary Court sentenced a co-founder of CDHR, Abdolfattah Soltani, to five years in jail for disclosing confidential information and opposing the state.

The crackdown by hardliners in the judiciary is particularly apparent in the number of executions being carried out. According to figures obtained by Amnesty International, 101 people have been executed since the start of the year, compared with 43 in the same period last year.

By Jerome Taylor
Published: 11 August 2006