[JURIST] Three independent UN human rights experts on Monday called for the immediate release [press release] of two key opposition leaders and their family members in Iran. Former presidential candidates Mehdi Karoubi and Mir Hossein Mossavi have been confined to their homes since February 2011 after staging a rally in solidarity with protesters in Egypt, for which they had sought permission from the authorities. Additionally, Mossavi's two daughters Zahra and Nargis were reportedly detained earlier this week [UN News Centre report] after speaking out against their parents' house arrest. Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran Ahmed Shaheed [official website] urged "the Iranian government to immediately and unconditionally release the two opposition leaders and their family members, and to end all restrictions on their movement and legally protected activities." Noting that Iran is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) [text], Shaheed charged Iran as being "obliged to protect the civil liberties of all its citizens, including the rights to be protected against arbitrary detention (Article 9), to be informed of any charges against them, to be given access to legal counsel, and to face an independent and impartial tribunal." El Hadji Malick Sow, Chair-Rapporteur of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention [official website], noted that none of the individuals in question have been charged or permitted to contest their detention before a judge, calling the situation a "violation of Iran's international obligations and national laws, which provide that no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention." In August the Working Group adopted an opinion on the case, finding the detention to be arbitrary. Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association [official website] Maina Kiai stated that the obligation of Iranian authorities to protect the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, association and expression are particularly relevant in the context of Iran's upcoming presidential elections in June. "It is of the utmost importance that members of civil society, including the media and human rights defenders, as well as political activists, be given greater space to avail themselves of these rights," Kiai added as he and the other Special Rapporteurs also urged Iran to release hundreds of other prisoner of conscience who remain imprisoned for peaceful exercise of those rights.
Special rapporteurs hold unpaid honorary positions apart from UN staff, and are appointed by the Human Rights Council [official website] to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. Iran in particular has come under increased scrutiny in recent years over its record on human rights. Last week Ahmed Shaheed and El Hadji Malick Sow joined the Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression and the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders [official websites] to collectively urge Iran to end its recent crackdown on journalists [JURIST report] and release those who have been already been detained. The group called the recent arrests of journalists a "flagrant violation of Iran's obligations under international human rights law." Last month UN rights experts urged [JURIST report] Iran not to execute Ahwazi activists. In October the UN Special Rapporteur for Iran accused the Iranian government of torturing human rights activists [JURIST report]. That same month the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights [official website] urged Iran to stop all executions [JURIST report] because the government had failed to comply with fair trial and due process guarantees. In June three UN Special Rapporteurs condemned [JURIST report] for executing four members of the Ahwazi Arab minority without providing them with fair trials.