An Open letter to:
The Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Khamenei;
President Hassan Rouhani;
Head of Judiciary Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani
Cc: Mr. Gholamali Khoshroo, Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the UN; Mr. Hamid Babaei, Third Counsellor, Press Office, Islamic Republic of Iran UN Mission
We understand Iranian artist Atena Farghadani has been sentenced to 12 years 9 months in prison, her appeal to take place within twenty days, and with regard to that appeal would hope you take the following into consideration.
The Islamic Republic of Iran is a party to various Articles within UN International Human Rights Conventions; including Article 19 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ”The right to freedom of opinion and expression,” and Articles 19, 21 and 22 of the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights mandating “The right to express an opinion and freedom of expression” and “The right to freedom of association.”
We are particularly concerned that that right to freedom of opinion and expression through the drawing of a cartoon should be attacked by the Iranian authorities, especially since — as noted by Atena Farghadani’s lawyer — “activities on social networks on the Internet [in Iran] are not recognized as crimes.” In addition to that, President Rouhani himself has pledged “support for the Freedom of Speech in Iran’s newspapers, magazines and websites,” with the Minister of Culture reiterating such encouragement. Foreign Minister Zarif also noted during a TV interview that: “We do not jail people for their opinions.”
Many Human Rights organizations and the UN believe that arresting, charging and sentencing Atena Farghadani for such activities contravenes the above-mentioned rights, and it is of concern to the international community as it moves into a new era of international co-operation with Iran.
The United Nations, and World Human Rights organizations, consider Atena Farghadani to be a prisoner of conscience, presently held for the peaceful exercise of her rights to freedom of expression and association. Being a party to the UN’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, we would hope you could see that too.
Since news of Atena Farghadani’s sentence has been announced, and circulated internationally, many people and organizations are expressing concern that it does not correspond with the direction Iran stated it was taking with regard to Human Rights — and cannot understand how such could continue, in particular with relation to the international co-operation now developing between Iran and other nations, which, as with Iran, would be rightly challenged when injustices occur within their own legal systems.
To inform the world that Iran, as with fellow co-signatories, is complying with the Articles of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, it would be hoped that you would reconsider the sentence on appeal, and that the conviction and sentence would be quashed. The world looks on — hoping Iran will, in good faith, free Atena Farghadani in this era of international co-operation — and in so doing prove that Iran is indeed a supporter of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, along with other internationally accepted human rights, a vital condition and component within this new era of international co-operation that we are hopefully heading towards.
With best regards,
Dr. Robert Russell
Cartoonists Rights Network International