The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran Ahmed Shaheed [official website] on Wednesday hailed the recent release [press release] of more than a dozen prisoners of conscience but urged the government to release hundreds of other prisoners detained "solely for exercising their rights to freedoms of expression, association and assembly." Among those released [JURIST report] is Nasrin Sotoudeh [JURIST news archive], a human rights activist and lawyer who was serving a six-year sentence for her September 2010 arrest and conviction for propaganda and harming national security. Stressing the important role of lawyers and human rights defenders, Shaheed called for the release of other detained human rights activists, including Nobel prize winner Abdolfattah Soltani [JURIST news archive] and Mohammad Ali Dadkhah [JURIST report] who are serving sentences for charges related to their work in human rights. Although the recent release of prisoners is a "step in the right direction," Shaheed said that "it is vital for the country's future that the voices of all its citizens are permitted to play their rightful part in crafting an inclusive future for Iran in the coming years."
The Iranian government has faced significant international scrutiny for its handling of the post-election protests in 2011 [JURIST news archive] and treatment of thousands arrested as a result. Amnesty International labeled human rights violations committed by the Iranian government following the election among the worst of the past 20 years [JURIST report]. Alleged human rights abuses of detainees include sexual assault, beatings and forced confessions [JURIST reports]. Many of those detained after the protests have since been freed, but more than 80 have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms and five have been sentenced to death.