UPDATE: Algeria: Samia Smets acquitted

Samia S., accused of having damaged a Quran and sentenced last September to 10 years imprisonment, was acquitted on 28 October 2008 by the judge of the criminal division of the Court of Biskra.
Source: 
El Watan

Algeria: Woman sentenced to 10 years for allegedly damaging a Quran

According to Algerian Newspaper El Watan, last September a young women aged 26 was sentenced to 10 years in prison in Biskra, southern Algeria, where she is already detained for previous offence. She is accused of having damaged a Quran.
Source: 
SIAWI / El Watan
Action needed: 
Please urgently write expressing your concern and demand a fair trial for Samia Smets.

SAMPLE LETTER

[date]

Subject: Fair trial for Samia Smets, accused of allegedly damaging a Quran

[Dear Mr. President] / [Dear Sir] / [Dear Minister],

[I am] / [We are] deeply concerned to learn that Ms. Samia Smets has been sentenced in a criminal court to 10 years imprisonment without having access to legal defence. The crime she has allegedly committed is of damaging a copy of the Quran.

In September 2007, the court of Biskra sentenced 26-year-old Samia Smets to 10 years imprisonment for allegedly having violated the Quran, under the Article 160, Section 4 of the Algerian Criminal Code which states that “any damage or desecration of the Holy Book is punishable by 5 to 10 years in prison." However, according to her lawyer, Samia Smets was initially judged without being defended by a lawyer and without adequate proof of the facts. It is unprecedented to give the maximum penalty for someone who has not appeared to be a repeat offender.

Algeria has signed and ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which obliges the courts of Algeria to guarantee procedural fairness in law, including the right to legal counsel. In addition, Article 36 of the Algerian Constitution states that “Freedom of creed and belief is inviolable” and Article 41 maintains that all citizens are entitled to the freedom of expression. We find the ruling in this case to be in violation of these national and international obligations and urge your government to intervene in the appeals process of this case.

The Criminal Court of Biskra held a retrial for Ms. Samia Smets, for which she was represented by a lawyer, and the verdict will be delivered on Tuesday 28 October. Due to the immediacy of this case we urge the authorities to:

1. Investigate the original trial of 2007 which led to the sentencing of Samia Smets;

2. Ensure a fair and transparent retrial is conducted under an independent and impartial judge, with access to a qualified defence lawyer; and

3. Ensure that the verdict against Ms. Smets is not inconsistent with the Algerian state’s commitment to the freedoms of belief, opinion and expression.

In light of the recent case in Biskra where the very same judge had sentenced six men to four years in prison for eating in public during the Ramadan fast on 29 September 2008 which was subsequently overturned, we are especially concerned about the emerging pattern of religiously-based verdicts being handed down in criminal cases.

We greatly appreciate your urgent attention to this critical matter.

Yours Sincerely,

[Your name / organization]

Addresses: 
Addresses

Mr. Abdelaziz Bouteflika
President of the Republic
Presidency, El-Mouradia
Algiers, Algeria
Tel : +00 213 21 69 15 15
Fax : +213 21 69 15 95
E-mail: President@el-mouradia.dz

Mr. Farouk Ksentini
President of the National Consultative Commission on Human Rights
Avenue Franklin Roosevelt
Allée du Peuple
16000 Algiers, Algeria
Tél : +00 213 (0) 21230311 / 230214

Mr. Amar Saadani
President of the Popular National Assembly
18 boulevard Zirouf Youcef
16000 Algiers, Algeria
Tél : 00 213 021 73 86 00 / 10

Mr. Noureddine Yazid Zerhouni
Minister of the Interior
Ministry of the Interior and Local Collectives, the Environment and Administrative Reform
Rue du Docteur Saâdane
Algiers, Algeria
Tél : 00 213 (0) 21 73 23 40 / 00 213 (0) 21 73 23 48 / 00 213 (0) 21 73 12 00 00 213
Fax : (00 213 0) 21 92 12 43

Mr. Tayeb Belaiz
Minister of Justice
Ministry of Justice
8 Place de Bir-Hakem
El-Biar, Algiers, Algeria
Tél : 00 213 (0) 21 92 16 08
Fax : 00 213 (0) 21 74 76 64 / + 213 21 92 17 01 / 29 56

S.E. Idriss Jazaïry
Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Algeria to the UN in Geneva
Route de Lausanne 308, CH-1293
Bellevue, Switzerland
E-mail: mission.algerie@mission-algerie.ch
Fax: +4122 / 774.30.49

S.E. Halim Benattallah
Ambassador of Algeria to Belgium
Avenue Molière 207
1050 Bruxelles, Belgium
Fax : 0032 343 51 68
E-mail: info@algerian-embassy.be

Embassy of Algeria in the UK
54 Holland Park
London, W11 3RS
United Kingdom

Ms. Asma Jahangir
UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief
freedomofreligion@ohchr.org / urgent-action@ohchr.org

Please also copy all correspondence to us at wluml@wluml.org and the embassy of Algeria in your home country

UPDATE: Algeria: Release of those sentenced for breaking the Ramadan fast

On 29 September, a court in Biskra sentenced 6 men to 4 years in prison and a 1000 euro fine, for eating in public during the fasting hours of Ramadan. The verdict has since been overturned and the prisoners have been freed.
Source: 
El Watan / WLUML Networkers

Algeria: 4 people sentenced to prison for breaking Ramadan fast

For the first time, 6 people in Southern Algeria have been sentenced to four years in jail and a $1300 fine for breaking the Ramadan fast.
Source: 
SIAWI
Action needed: 
Demand immediate release and a revision of the trial!

Six people, arrested mid-September, were sentenced to 4 years in prison and a 1000 Euro fine by the Tribunal of Biskra (in southern Algeria) on September 29, 2008. They were accused of having had food before the end of the Ramzan fast. http://www.lefigaro.fr/international/2008/10/07/01003-20081007ARTFIG00743-algerie-ans-ferme-pour-ne-pas-avoir-respecte-le-ramadan-.php

While the Algerian Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, freedom of conscience, and freedom of opinion, judges used article 142 bis 2 of the Penal Code to justify the sentence; this article sets punishment for 'offending the Prophet and denigrating the dogma of Islam by writing, drawing, oral statement and any other means'.

Clearly the fundamentalists' offensive is bearing fruits: the government negotiates with them, the laws of the Republic are gradually replaced by a narrowly defined version of the 'law of God', and if judges still take measures to subvert the legal code to justify their decision, one can fear that the time has come when this precaution will not even be necessary any more.

In order to avoid further "Talibanisation" of Algeria and to prevent further subversions of justice, the network "Secularism is a Women's Issue" calls upon everyone to take action (letter-writing, sending delegations to the Algerian Embassies in your home country, organizing demonstrations, sending out press articles, providing legal aid to those sentenced in Biskra, etc...) vis-a-vis the Algerian authorities to demand the immediate release of the condemned people, on the ground that this judgement contradicts the rights granted by the Algerian Constitution. One can also demand the revision of the trial.

Source: SIAWI - Secularism Is A Women's Issue http://www.siawi.org/article561.html

SAMPLE LETTER TO BE ADDRESSED TO EMBASSIES:

Dear Ambassador:

On 29 September 2008, the Court of Biskra sentenced six people for eating during Ramadan to four years' imprisonment. This ruling violates the Constitution of the Republic of Algeria, which guarantees freedom of religion, conscience and opinion.

We therefore urge the immediate release of those convicted and the subsequent revision of their trial.

Sincerely,

_______________________________.

Addresses: 
Ambassador Permanent Representative
H.E. Mr. Mourad Benmehidi
The Permanent Mission of Algeria to the United Nations
326 E 48th St
New York, NY 10017-1747
mission@algeria-un.org
(F): +1 212.759.5274

Embassy of Algeria in the UK and Ireland
54 Holland Park
London W11 3RS
T: +44 (020) 7221 7800
F: +44 (020) 7221 0448
E: info@algerianembassy.org.uk

And the Algerian embassy in your home country.

Ms. Asma Jahangir
UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief
freedomofreligion@ohchr.org / urgent-action@ohchr.org

Please notify us at wluml@wluml.org of any letter written or other actions taken.

France: Ensure police protection for Mohamed Sifaoui

Mohamed Sifaoui - an Algerian journalist, writer and director living in exile in France - was violently attacked by Islamists in Paris on Friday, June 13th 2008. Why? For his tireless and courageous struggle against fundamentalisms and his defence of secularism. Since 2003 he has benefited from police protection, but since January 2008 it has been withdrawn.
Source: 
WLUML networkers
Action needed: 
You can write a polite letter to the French government urging them to ensure the security and welfare of Mohamed Sifaoui.

SAMPLE LETTER

Dear Mr President,

We are writing to draw your attention to the case of Mr Mohamed Sifaoui, a human rights defender and a women's human rights defender at risk in France.

Since January 2003 he benefitted from police protection in France where he was granted political asylum in 2000. This protection was removed in January 2008, without further explanation.

For many years Mr Sifaoui has been inundated with hate mail; Muslim fundamentalists continue to propagate insulting rumours about him, that may encourage someone to actually take action against him. Since the removal of protection, Mr Sifaoui is still facing death threats by mail and telephone. Morevover, he is now regularly threatened by Muslim fundamentalists in the street, and was physically assaulted in broad daylight in the 11th district of Paris on June 13, 2008.

On June 14, Mr Sifaoui reported the case to the local police and filed a case based upon the violence, insults and death threats. Moreover, on June 16, his lawyer formally wrote to the Minister of Interior to request protection for his client. To this date, he has not been given any protection. Meanwhile he continues to receive hate mail and is threatened as soon as he gets out of the house. Fearing for his life, Mr Sifaoui cannot step out of his house. His family, including children, is at risk too. It is very clear to us that Mr Sifaoui's life is in danger, due to the removal of his police protection. We fail to understand why protection was not given back to him after the physical assault of June 13.

At a time when other human rights defenders from Muslim countries and communities suffer from total abandonment by the countries that hosted them and granted them asylum (such as Aayan Hirsi Ali in Holland, or Tasleema Nasreen in India), one may wonder why the 'moderate Muslims' that European governments loudly pretend to desperately look for in order to dialogue with them, are so badly treated by these democracies. Is it that human rights defenders are in demand only when they are seen as politically useful by powers that be, and when they are not so useful, they are thrown as disposable? This is not our conception of defending human rights defenders.

We placed our hopes into the fact that France recently honoured Ms Taslima Nasreen with the Simone de Beauvoir award that gave recognition and visibility to her work as a defender of women's rights. We are astounded that the risks to his life which Mr Sifaoui is facing in France are not taken more seriously and that he was deprived of a protection once granted to him and which he still badly needs.

We have known Mr Sifaoui, his life and his career, for many years. He has been a journalist since 1988. His whole career demonstrates his honesty, his bold courage, and his involvement in the defence of civil liberties, secularism, human rights and women's rights. He worked in Tunisie and in Algeria. In Algeria he was a journalist at radio "Alger Chaine 3", and for the daily papers “Soir d'Algérie”, “Horizons”, “Le quotidien d'Oran”, “l'Authentique”, and a chief editor for the weekly “Le chroniquer”. He was also the correspondent in Algiers for the French weekly "Jeune Afrique".

In 1996, he barely escaped the bomb blast that killed so many independent journalists at the Maison de la Presse where most independent newspapers were housed. It is a well-known fact that armed fundamentalists in Algeria targetted journalists and especially those of “Le Soir d'Algérie” where Mr Sifaoui was working. After this traumatic event, Mr Sifaoui devoted his life as a journalist, opposing fundamentalists.

In 1999, he courageously opposed President Bouteflika's policy of 'national reconciliation' which granted impunity to fundamentalists with blood on their hands. Moreover this 'reconciliation' and its later developments forbade any truth finding, any enquiry into responsibilities for killings and massacres of the population: contrary to all known examples of 'truth and reconciliation commissions', this reconciliation is based on silencing the victims and veiling the facts. Harrassed by police and judiciary, receiving daily death threats, Mr Sifaoui came into exile in France where he was granted political asylum.

By January 2000, he resumed his activities as a journalist and a writer, especially at radio BFM and the weekly Marianne. He was also the correspondent in Paris of "La voix du Luxembourg". He immediately started investigating on Islamist groups in France. Subsequently, he received several death threats that led the Minister of Interior to give him around-the-clock police protection in January 2003. While death threats have continued non-stop over the years, this protection was removed in January 2008.

Mr Sifaoui is a well known writer: he published several books in French, among which: My brothers the assassins, France sick with Islamism, On the tracks of Ben Laden, Combatting Islamic terrorism, etc. A well-known reporter, he has done several segments for television and radio (on French, German and Canadian channels). He also gives conferences and is regularly invited as a speaker by NGOs.

Mr Sifaoui works very closely with secular and feminist groups. In Algeria as well as in France, Mr Sifaoui was outspoken on women's oppression in Muslim countries. Himself a Muslim believer, he spoke numerous times against the veiling of women, which he describes as a political flag for fundamentalists, as an instrument and symbol of submission of women.

He works with the well-known French women's rights organisation 'Ni Putes Ni Soumises' and with the secular French organisation 'Prochoix', and was elected on the board of SOS Racism since October 2007. He publicly took position against Tariq and Hani Ramadan who refused to condemn stoning to death for adulterous women. He is a signatory of Durban I and II petitions. He publicly condemned attacks on civilians in Israel, September 11 terrorist acts, Paris bombings in 1995, as well as bombings in London, Madrid, etc. In numerous public fora, he supported minority religious groups, gay groups, secularism, human rights and democracy. He supported freedom of speech, freedom of thought and freedom of the press, when he testified in court for the French weekly Charlie Hebdo and the Danish daily Jyllands Posten, at the time of the cartoons' controversy.

Mr Sifaoui, a well-known human rights defender and defender of the human rights of women, deserves continued protection from France.

We demand of the French Government that full protection be granted to him as it was in the past. Failing to do that at the earliest would place on France the responsibility of any further attack on Mr Sifaoui.

Sincerely yours,

[Your name / organization]

Addresses: 
ADDRESSES

President Sarkozy
email: www.elysee.fr/ecrire
Monsieur le Président de la République
Palais de l'Elysée
55, rue du faubourg Saint-Honoré
75008 Paris
France
Salutation: Dear Mr. President

Ministère de la Justice
13, place Vendôme
75042 PARIS CEDEX 01
France
Salutation: Dear Sirs

Ms. Margaret Sekaggya
Special Representative of the Secretary General for human rights defenders
fax: +41(0) 22.917.90.06
urgent-action@ohchr.org

You can also send your letter to other French governmental authorities and the embassy of France in your country.

Please notify us of any action taken at wluml@wluml.org

UPDATE: Nigeria: Local women's groups protest bill on 'indecent clothing'

The following is an update provided by BAOBAB - For Women's Human Rights, a women's rights organization based in Nigeria. This is a brief report on the Public Hearing held in July 2008 regarding a proposed bill which, if made into law, would regulate styles of clothing on the grounds this would curb sexual intimidation and other sexual offences. The women who conducted research, presented their findings and demands, spoke out at the public hearing and aired their concerns with the world are to be commended for their actions and commitment to fighting discriminatory laws.
Source: 
BAOBAB - For Women's Human Rights

Canada: Polygamous communities persist on grounds of 'religious freedom'

The polygamous communities of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) - a branch of Mormonism - have openly practiced forced and underage marriages, incest, and abuse for decades. Under the clause of 'religious freedoms', however, this practice has been permitted to continue in the Canadian province of British Columbia and lengthy court cases have been further delayed by repeated appointments of special investigators.
Source: 
WLUML networkers
Action needed: 
You can write to the Canadian government, and the representative of Canada in your country, to remind them that the justification of violence against women with religious and cultural arguments, cuts across faiths and cultures. Not only should the Canadian government be urged to uphold its laws on polygamy but their policy-makers should be obliged to address the issue of human rights violations in the name of religious freedoms.

SAMPLE LETTER

Dear ______________,

We are writing to express our deep concern over the persistent tolerance of polygyny (the marriage of a man to more than one woman, often referred to as polygamy) in Canada. Through media reports and information received from our colleagues in Canada, we have been following the development of the polygamous community of Bountiful, British Columbia, run by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS). Throughout the latter half of the 20th century, this community has continued to practice polygyny which we maintain is not only against Canadian law, but is a violation of the rights of women, girls and boys. We understand that criminal investigations have been launched in the province of British Columbia, yet the claim of the ‘right to religious freedom’ is halting this process. We strongly believe that human rights are indivisible and the right to religious freedom must not be allowed to impinge upon the rights of the women and children of the communities who face early and forced marriages, domestic and sexual violence, and the limitations of their autonomy and independence. Religion is a personal choice and we are deeply concerned to see the Canadian government acquiescing to religious groups under the pretext of multicultural accommodation.

We applauded the decision of the government of Ontario in 2005 to disallow religious arbitration in that province, on the grounds that parallel legal systems are undemocratic and unfair. Due to gender imbalances that cut across religious and cultural communities, it was evident to us, given our network’s experience of parallel legal systems, that women often do not have the same capacity to access the formal legal structure and make autonomous decisions regarding their marriages, divorces, and children. We see similar challenges facing the women and children of Bountiful, B.C. and are not convinced that they are freely entering into these polygynous marriages without coercion or indoctrination. These are Canadian citizens and we find it abhorrent that they are being denied the same rights and freedoms as others.

These cases of polygyny are clearly not confined to any single religion or culture, as evidenced by the recent case of Mrs. Safa Rigby in Toronto, Ontario. Mrs. Rigby found that her husband of 14 years had recently married two other women while she was away with her children. We urge the government of Ontario to follow British Columbia's lead and begin to launch a criminal investigation into polygamist marriages in that province. Section 293 of the Canadian Criminal Code clearly states that: “Everyone who practices or enters into or in any manner agrees or consents to practice or enter into any form of polygamy, or any kind of conjugal union with more than one person at the time, celebrates, assists or is a party to rite, ceremony, contract or consent that purports to sanction a relationship mentioned in subparagraph or is guilty of an indictable offense ...” We urge the federal and provincial governments throughout Canada to immediately address this issue and take speedy and concrete measures to eliminate polygamy in Canada at the level of law and policing and not to cower to calls for ‘religious freedoms’ when these freedoms clearly violate the safety, security and fundamental human rights of citizens.

Yours sincerely,

[Your name / organization]

Please notify us of any action taken, at wluml@wluml.org

Addresses: 
ADDRESSES

The Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper
Prime Minister of Canada
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A2
Canada
Fax: +1 613-941-6900
Email: pm@pm.gc.ca
Salutation: Dear Prime Minister

The Hon. Stephane Dion, MP
Liberal Party of Canada
81 Metcalfe Street, Suite 400
Ottawa, Ontario
K1P 6M8
Canada
Fax: + 1 (613) 235-7208
Email: info@liberal.ca
Salutation: Dear Sir

The Hon. Gordon Campbell, Premier
Liberal Party of Canada in British Columbia
460 - 580 Hornby St.
Vancouver, BC
V6C 3B6
Canada
Fax: +1 (604) 874-8966
Email: info@lpcbc.com
Salutation: Dear Sir

The Hon. Jack Layton
New Democratic Party
300 - 279 Laurier West
Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5J9
Canada
Fax: + 1 613-230-9950
Email: layton.j@parl.gc.ca
Salutation: Dear Sir

The Hon. Dawn Black, MP
Member of Parliament, New Democratic Party
1116 Austin Avenue,
Coquitlam, BC V3K 3P5
Canada
Fax: +1 (604) 664-9231
Salutation: Dear Madam

The Hon. Dawn Black, MP
Member of Parliament, New Democratic Party
Parliament Hill
223 West Block, House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A OA6
Canada
Fax: +1 (613) 947-4458
Email: blackd@parl.gc.ca
Salutation: Dear Madam

The Hon. Dalton McGuinty
Premier of Ontario
Legislative Building, Queen's Park
Toronto ON M7A 1A1
Canada
Fax: +1 (416) 325-3745.
Email: dmcguinty.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org
Salutation: Dear Sir

The Hon. Lisa MacLeod, MPP for Nepean-Carleton
10 Green St., Nepean, ON K2J 3Z6
Canada
Fax: +1 613-823-8284
Salutation: Dear Madam

The Hon. Lisa MacLeod, MPP for Nepean-Carleton
Room 347, Legislative Bldg., Toronto ON M7A 1A8
Canada
Fax: +1 416-325-6364
Email: lisa.macleod@pc.ola.org

The Hon. Wally Oppal
Justice Minister of British Columbia
3158 East 54th Avenue,
Vancouver, BC V5S 1Z1
Canada
Fax: +1 (604) 775-2422

The Hon. Wally Oppal
Justice Minister of British Columbia
Office of the Attorney General
Room 234, Parliament Buildings
Victoria, BC V8V1X4
Canada
Fax: +1 (250) 387-6411
Email: wally.oppal.mla@leg.bc.ca
Salutation: Dear Sir

The Honourable Robert Douglas Nicholson
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
East Memorial Building, 4th Floor
284 Wellington Street
Ottawa ON K1A 0H8
Canada
Tel: + 1 613-992-4621
Fax: + 1 613-990-7255
E-Mail: Nicholson.R@parl.gc.ca

UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief
Ms. Asma Jahangir
Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief
c/o Office Of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
United Nations at Geneva
8-14 Avenue de la Paix
1211 Geneva 10
Switzerland
Fax: (+41 22) 917 90 06
E-mail: freedomofreligion@ohchr.org or to urgent-action@ohchr.org (please include in the subject box: Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief)
Salutation: Dear Madam

Dr. Yakin Erturk
Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences
c/o Office Of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
United Nations at Geneva
8-14 Avenue de la Paix
1211 Geneva 10
Switzerland
Fax: (+41 22) 917 90 06
E-mail: urgent-action@ohchr.org (please include in the subject box: Special Rapporteur on violence against women)
Salutation: Dear Madam

You can also write to the embassy of Canada in your home country and your local politicians.

Iran: Six leading members of the Bahá’í faith detained

Six leaders of a group managing the Baha'i community's religious and administrative affairs in Iran were arrested at their homes by officers from the Ministry of Intelligence on 14 May 2008, and are now detained in Evin Prison in Tehran. A seventh person, acting secretary for the group, Mahvash Sabet, has been in detention since 5 March. The Baha'i community has long been persecuted by the Iranian government, especilly since the Iranian Revolution.
Source: 
International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran
Action needed: 
Please write a polite but firm letter to the Iranian authorities and the embassy of Iran in your home country. You can also send your letter to the UN Special Rapporteur Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief:

SAMPLE LETTER:

[Salutation],

We write to express our deep concern over the detention of six leading members of the Bahá’í faith. According to information we have received, on the morning of May 14th, 2008, Mrs. Fariba Kamalabadi, Mr. Jamaloddin Khanjani, Mr. Afif Naeimi, Mr. Saeid Rezaie, Mr. Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Mr. Vahid Tizfahm were arrested from their homes in Tehran by agents of the Ministry of Intelligence and taken to Evin prison. The government intelligence agents entered their homes and spent up to five hours searching each home, before taking them away. The six leaders are members of the informal national-level coordinating group of Bahá’ís in Iran known as the Friends. This organization was established, with the knowledge of the government, to help cope with the diverse needs of Iran’s Bahá’í community. A seventh leader of the same group, Mrs. Mahvash Sabet, has been arrested in Mashhad on March 5th 2008 and is reportedly still detained.

The detainees are currently being held incommunicado without access to legal counsel and have only been allowed to contact their family members for the first time on June 19th. According to the Iranian government, the six leaders were ostensibly arrested “for security reasons and not for their faith”. Over the past 30 years, however, the repeated deployment of such national security claims without adequate documentation lack substantial basis. Given that Bahá’í detainees have always been promised release if they agree to recant their faith, we are concerned that the threat against national security is a pretext for continued persecution of the Bahá’í community in Iran. Therefore, these recent arrests appear to us to be another manifestation of the ongoing persecution and discrimination practices against the Bahá’ís and other religious minorities in Iran.

The continued practice of discriminating against religious minorities places Iran in violation of its international legal obligations. In addition to being among the 48 member states of the United Nations in 1948 that unanimously adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Iran has also signed and ratified two covenants on human rights: the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The rights of members of religious minorities are held by Article 18 of both the UDHR and the ICCPR, namely the right of everyone to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. Article 2(2) of the ICESCR binds states parties "to guarantee" while Article2 of the ICCPR binds the states parties "to respect and to ensure" the rights “enunciated" and "recognized" in the Covenants. Furthermore, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights has passed more than 20 resolutions expressing concern about human rights violations in Iran, and each has made specific mention of the situation of the Bahá’í community there.

We therefore urge the Iranian authorities to immediately release the detained Bahá’í leaders and to uphold the rights of Iranian religious minorities in full accordance with international law and obligations. Until the release of the detainees, we call upon the Iranian authorities to ensure their safety and security as well as their access to legal counsel.

Thank you for your attention and we look forward to your response to this serious matter.

Yours Sincerely,

[Your name]

Addresses: 
ADDRESSES:

Please note that you may have difficulty contacting the officials inside Iran and faxes and emails are not always transmitted. Please be patient and send letters as well as emails and faxes. Please notify us at wluml@wluml.org of any action taken:

Head of the Judiciary:
His Excellency Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi
Howzeh Riyasat-e Qoveh Qazaiyeh / Office of the Head of the Judiciary
Pasteur St., Vali Asr Ave.,
south of Serah-e Jomhouri,
Tehran 1316814737,
Islamic Republic of Iran
Email: info@dadgostary-tehran.ir
(On the address, write: « FAO Ayatollah Shahroudi »)
Salutation: Your Excellency

Minister of Information:
Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeie
Ministry of Intelligence,
Second Negarestan Street, Pasdaran Avenue,
Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran
Salutation: Your Excellency

Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran:
His Excellency Ayatollah Sayed ‘Ali Khamenei,
The Office of the Supreme Leader Islamic Republic Street -
Shahid Keshvar Doust Street
Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran
Email: info@leader.ir
Salutation: Your Excellency,

President of the Republic:
His Excellency Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
The Presidency
Palestine Avenue, Azerbaijan Intersection
Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran
Fax : + 98 21 6 649 5880
Email via the following website: http://www.president.ir/email

Head of the Committee of Human Rights in the Judiciary:
His Excellency Mohammad Javad Larijani
C/o Office of the Deputy for International Affairs
Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Justice Building,
Panzdah-Khordad (Ark) Square,
Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran
Fax : + 98 21 5 537 8827

Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief
c/o Office Of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
United Nations at Geneva
8-14 Avenue de la Paix
1211 Geneva 10
Switzerland
Fax: (+41 22) 917 90 06
E-mail: freedomofreligion@ohchr.org or to urgent-action@ohchr.org (please include in the subject box: Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief)

Please also contact the Iranian officials in your country of residence, for whom some telephone and fax numbers are listed below.

United States:
Interests Section of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Washington, D.C.
Tel: +(202) 965-4990; (202) 965-4991; (202) 965-4992; (202) 965-4993; (202) 965-4994; (202) 965-4999
Fax: +(202) 965-1073; (202) 965-4990

Canada: Embassy of Iran in Ottawa
Tel: (613) 232-5712

United Kingdom: Embassy of Iran in London
Tel: 0207-225-3000
Fax: 0207-589-4440

Switzerland: Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations in Switzerland, Geneva
Tel: (41-22)332 21 00-21
Fax: (41-22)733 02 03

United Arab Emirates: Embassy of Iran in Abu Dhabi
Tel: +9712-4447618
Fax: +9712-4448714

Denmark: Embassy of Iran in Copenhagen
Tel: 3916-0003
Fax: 3916-0075

Norway: Embassy of Iran in Oslo
Tel: (+47) 23 27 29 60
Fax: (+47) 22 55 49 19

Russia: Embassy of Iran in Moscow
Tel: 9178655; 9179679; 9175219; 9177282; 9170039; 9172442; 9178959
Fax: 2302897; 9179683

Finland: Embassy of Iran
Tel: +358-9-6869 240
Fax: +358-9-6869 2410

South Africa: Embassy of Iran
Tel: +27 (012) 342 58 80 / 1
Fax: +27 (012) 342 18 78

Germany: Embassy of Iran in Frankfurt
Tel: +49 (0) 69 56 000 739 - 740
Fax: +49 (0) 69 56 000 728
Email: iran.botschaft@t-online.de, info@irangk.de, info@igk-hamburg.de.

India: Embassy of Iran in New Delhi
Tel: +91-11-23329600/ 01 / 02
Fax: +91-11-23325493

Embassy of Iran in Brussels
15a avenue Franklin Roosevelt
1050 Brussels, Belgium
Fax: + 32 2 762 39 15
Email: iran-embassy@yahoo.com and secretariat@iranembassy.be

UPDATE: Nepal: Women human rights defender murdered

The following is an update on the situation in the Kanchanpur district of Nepal where women human rights defender Laxmi Bohara was murdered by her husband and mother-in-law. Further women activists are now being threatened and attacked.
Source: 
NAWHRDs

Nigeria: Protest the proposed law on 'indecent clothing'

BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights has issued an alert regarding the “Bill for an Act to Prohibit and Punish Public Nudity, Sexual Intimidation and Other Related Offences in Nigeria”.
Source: 
BAOBAB
Action needed: 
Please write to the authorities of the Nigerian National Assembly urging them to:

1. Conform to the constitution and all international and human rights instruments to which Nigeria is a signatory.

2. Resist the move by Senator Ufot Eme Ekaette, Senate Committee Chairperson on Women and Youth, in compelling legislators to legislate on morality and imposition of a national law on dress code for the Nigeria citizens.

3. Reconsider their position and reject the enactment of such a complicated moral issues into law for the benefit of females and Nigeria as a whole.

4. Realize that Nigeria is a secular state and not founded on any religious affiliation as imposition of dress code connotes a strong affiliation to religious tenets and principles as a result compelling Nigerians to be bound by tenets favouring religious sects.

5. Legislate with the sense of urgency on thriving national development and human rights issues in relation to alleviating the plight of the masses and vulnerable in the society.

6. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the national constitution, international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Nigeria

SAMPLE LETTER

His Excellency, Senator Abubakar T. Ayuba
National Assembly Complex
Three Arms Zone
P.M.B 141 Abuja
Nigeria

[Date]

Subject: Nigerian Bill on ‘Indecent Dressing’

Dear Senator,

[I am] / [We are] concerned after having received news from women’s rights organisations in Nigeria of the ‘Bill for an Act to Prohibit and Punish Public Nudity, Sexual Intimidation and Other Related Offences’ (hereafter ‘Bill’) in Nigeria. We are particularly concerned with the way this Bill, which was initiated by Senator Ufot Eme Ekaette, has the potential to deny constitutional rights and is discriminatory against women. In addition to legislating on morality (which is distinct from law), this Bill provides an expansive definition of public nudity well beyond its ordinary meaning, thereby overlooking the diverse cultural and belief systems in Nigeria. The Bill is contrary to constitutionally and internationally guaranteed rights which prohibit discrimination on basis of gender. It also gives wide powers to police officers to invade individuals’ personal lives. We are troubled by the fact that this Bill has already successfully passed the first and second hearings of the floor of the Senate.

Not only does this Bill have the potential to police women’s bodies in Nigeria, its implementation will also mean that the police are free to intrude on women’s bodies on the pretext of upholding the provisions of this Bill – for instance checking with tape measures that articles of clothing are of the appropriate length as deemed by the Bill. While the provisions of the Bill demand that men be clothed from waist to knee, the requirement for women’s clothing is much stricter, almost to the point of absurdity and fetishizes female anatomy. We, along with women’s rights organisations in Nigeria, are also concerned that in the face of substantial development and human rights challenges facing Nigeria, the government prefers to spend precious time and resources on more trivial issues such as this Bill. Furthermore, it is a shocking misrepresentation to ignore corruption, abuse of power, lack of accountability and embezzlement as fundamentally indecent and immoral (the cumulative effects of which are a massive loss of a sense of decency, lives, quality of life and potentials in Nigeria), in order to focus on restricting women’s clothing including specifying to the inch how long sleeves must be.

[I am] / [We are] are particularly concerned with the way this unconstitutional and gender-discriminatory Bill seeks to regulate women’s bodies under the pretext of safeguarding ‘decency’ and ‘morality’ and preserving discriminatory traditions. We also take this opportunity to point out that as the incumbent President of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Nigeria has to set a standard in its obligatory role in the promotion of human rights commencing with the human rights situation of its citizens.

In light of the nature of this Bill and the way it will deny Nigerians, especially women, their basic rights, we urge you to:

1. Ensure that the constitution and all international and human rights instruments to which Nigeria is a signatory are conformed with.

2. Resist the move by Senator Ufot Eme Ekaette, Senate Committee Chairperson on Women and Youth, in compelling legislators to legislate on morality and imposition of a national law on dress code for Nigerian citizens.

3. Reject the enactment of such complicated moral issues into law for the benefit of females and Nigeria as a whole.

4. Acknowledge that Nigeria is a secular state and not founded on any religious affiliation. The imposition of a dress code connotes a strong affiliation to religious tenets and principles, consequentially compelling Nigerians to be bound by the same.

5. Legislate with a sensitivity and priority regarding the challenges facing Nigerian national development and human rights issues in relation to alleviating the plight of the masses and vulnerable in the society.

6. Ensure that respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the national constitution, international human rights standards and international instruments which have been ratified by Nigeria are upheld in all circumstances.

Yours Sincerely,

_______________.

Addresses: 
Addresses:

Senator David Mark
National Assembly Complex
Three Arms Zone
P.M.B 141 Abuja
Nigeria
dmark@nassnig.org

Senator Ike Ekweremadu
National Assembly Complex
Three Arms Zone
P.M.B 141 Abuja
Nigeria
ikeekweremadu@yahoo.com

Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba San
National Assembly Complex
Three Arms Zone
P.M.B 141 Abuja
Nigeria
vndomegba@nassnig.org
Telephone: +234 8033141877, +234 8028383170

Senator Abubakar T. Ayuba
Constituency Address:

No 2 Tanko Ayuba Road,
Dirindaji, Sakaba LGA, Kebbi State
Telephone: + 234 8030660943

Main address:

Senator Abubakar T. Ayuba
National Assembly Complex
Three Arms Zone
P.M.B 141 Abuja
Nigeria

Sen. Adefemi Kila
National Assembly Complex
Three Arms Zone
P.M.B 141 Abuja
Nigeria
Telephone: 08037879791
femi_kila2000@yahoo.com

Please also write to the embassies of Nigeria in your respective country. For example:

Nigerian Embassy in the United Kingdom
High Commissioner
Nigeria House
9 Northumberland Avenue
London WC2N 5BX

Kindly inform BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights (baobab@baobabwomen.org) and WLUML (wluml@wluml.org) of any action undertaken with regards to this appeal in your reply.

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