The Iranian judiciary has finally admitted to the arrest of two elite students from the Sharif University of Technology after detaining them for 26 days on charges of ‘diversionary actions’ and ‘attempting to carry out sabotage operations’. Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Radosław Sikorski of the Group of the European People’s Party(EPP) raised a question regarding the ill-treatment of student detainees in Iran to the High Representative of the European Commission for Foreign Affairs.
The People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, the political opposition party, has also announced the names of 18 other student detainees, just some of the many who have been arrested. The National Council of Resistance of Iran has emphasised that the detainees are subject to torture and face execution, and additionally are in danger of being exposed to COVID-19 whilst imprisoned. The two organisations have urged international human rights organisations to take urgent action to secure the release of the detainees and to send international missions to visit the regime’s prisons and meet with the students.
The clerical regime must publish the names of all the detainees and respect their rights under the international conventions to which it is a party. Torture and ill-treatment of political prisoners are well-known practices of the regime and there is significant proof of torture and unconfirmed deaths.
In May 2020, Polish MEP Radosław Sikorski of the Group of the European People’s Party posed a parliamentary question to the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell. MEP Sikorski asked the European External Action Service (EEAS) if it was taking any action regarding the student detentions and “if not, is it planning to, taking into account the urgency of the situation and the risk of imminent executions?”
In June 2020, High Representative/ Vice President Borrell formally responded on behalf of the European Commission. In his answer Vice President Borrell stated that “since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak in Iran, the European Union has been closely monitoring the ongoing temporary release of more than 80,000 prisoners in Iran”. He continued “at the same time, the group of students referred to in the Honourable Member’s question, as well as a number of human rights defenders and activists, remain in prison”.
High Representative Borrell further reported that “as part of the EU’s commitment — outlined in the February 2019 Foreign Affairs Council Conclusions on Iran — to address all issues of concern, the European External Action Service (EEAS) has repeatedly urged the Iranian authorities to ensure that detained individuals are kept in safe and hygienic conditions and that as many prisoners as possible are released on medical furlough”. He also highlighted that “the EEAS has also been clear with the Iranian authorities about the importance of due process and keeping detainees in conditions where they are kept free from harm and have prompt access to legal advice and representation”.
High Representative/ Vice President Borrell further expressed “more broadly, the Honourable Member may be aware that the European Union regularly raises the overall human rights situation with Iran as part of bilateral contacts at all levels” and that “this includes raising concern about individual cases”. He also explained that “in addition, the EU provides direct support to human rights defenders at risk worldwide, including in Iran, through the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), in particular under its Objective 1”.
Finally, Mr Borrell declared that “since 2011, the EU has also adopted restrictive measures, including the freezing of assets and visa bans, for individuals and entities responsible for serious human rights violations and a ban on exports to Iran of equipment which might be used for internal repression and of equipment for monitoring telecommunications”.
Whilst High Representative/ Vice President Borrell offers a detailed response, such actions have little effect on a regime with little regard for the rights of political prisoner, nor human rights per se.
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