Press Release


27 July 2004

The following statement was issued today by the Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, and the Special Rapporteur on torture of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights:

“The Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Ambeyi Ligabo, the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Leandro Despouy, and the Special Rapporteur on torture, Theo van Boven, express their profound concern regarding the unanswered questions which have resulted from the acquittal of an Iranian intelligence officer on 24 July after a two-day trial for the alleged killing of journalist Zahra Kazemi.

Ms. Kazemi was arrested on 23 June 2003 while performing her work as a journalist outside Evin prison in the Iranian capital Tehran. She was reportedly beaten and subjected to other forms of ill-treatment in detention; she died of her injuries on 10 July 2003.

Many reports indicate that the proceedings did not meet international standards of a fair trial because key evidence that might have incriminated judiciary officials, the prosecutor's office as well as the intelligence ministry was ignored by the court. The independent experts are also concerned that journalists and other foreign observers were barred from full access to the courtroom after the start of the trial.

The independent experts fear that by failing to ensure an open trial and the independent functioning of the judiciary -- which should take into account all findings that could shed light on this case -- the authorities are favouring a climate of impunity for law enforcement officials and setting the ground for the recurrence of similar human rights violations in the future.

The experts underline the need for prompt and impartial investigations whenever acts and practices of torture are alleged. They appeal to the authorities to comply strictly with international human rights norms, and in particular with article 2, paragraph 3, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights ratified by the Islamic Republic of Iran, which provides that, "Each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes: (a) To ensure that any person whose rights or freedoms as herein recognized are violated shall have an effective remedy, notwithstanding that the violation has been committed by persons acting in an official capacity; (b) To ensure that any person claiming such a remedy shall have his right thereto determined by competent judicial, administrative or legislative authorities, or by any other competent authority provided for by the legal system of the State, and to develop the possibilities of judicial remedy; and (c) To ensure that the competent authorities shall enforce such remedies when granted".