ACLJ‘s international campaign to free Pastor Saeed is reaching a critical stage. Yesterday our European affiliate, the European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ) – which is based in Strasbourg, France – filed a written statement on Saeed’s behalf before the United Nations Human Rights Council. The ECLJ has special consultative status as a non-governmental organization (NGO) at the U.N., which enables us to engage the U.N. and its member states in an official capacity. The Human Rights Council, which represents 47 member states, identifies its own mission as being “responsible for the promotion and protection of all human rights around the globe.” There is no better case for the HRC to engage than that of Pastor Saeed – a U.S. citizen – imprisoned in a nation that not only rejects religious freedom and human rights laws but also exhibits a hostile disdain for international laws that protect the most basic rights of people around the world. The ECLJ Statement clearly states Pastor Saeed’s plight:
Pastor Saeed Abedini, a Christian with dual United States–Iranian nationality, is currently imprisoned at Evin Prison in Tehran, the Islamic Republic of Iran, because he encouraged peaceful assemblies of Christians in private homes. Over the last six months, Pastor Saeed was: (1) arrested and imprisoned by Iranian Revolutionary Guards; (2) repeatedly beaten in prison; (3) denied access to medical care made necessary by this abuse; (4) denied access to his attorney until mere hours before his trial; (5) given a sham trial before a judge so notoriously biased and corrupt that he was condemned by the European Union for issuing egregious verdicts; (6) disallowed, along with his counsel, from attending the second day of his trial; and (7) sentenced to eight years in Evin Prison for exercising his Christian faith. In addition to directly abusing Pastor Saeed and violating his rights, Iranian officials directly threatened an Abedini family friend assisting the family in seeking Pastor Saeed’s release on bail.
And it also clearly states Iran’s legal obligations:
As a Member State of the UN, the Islamic Republic of Iran is obligated to adhere to norms set forth in the UN Charter, such as those requiring members “[t]o achieve international cooperation . . . in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and . . . fundamental freedoms . . . without distinction as to [inter alia] religion”. By trying and imprisoning Pastor Saeed because of his religion, the Islamic Republic of Iran is violating its obligations under the UN Charter and Pastor Saeed’s fundamental rights: freedom of religion and belief, freedom of peaceful assembly, and rights to be free from arbitrary detainment and from torture. Therefore, these violations concern not only the Islamic Republic of Iran and every Member State, but every agency of the UN. [footnotes omitted]
The Statement also goes on to detail Iran’s violations not just of the U.N. Charter but also of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In short, Iran’s actions violate significant international human rights treaties and cannot be tolerated by the international community. Filing this written submission is a vital first step in our formal U.N. efforts to free Saeed. Next, we’ll attempt to engage each of the 47 members of the Human Rights Council, in hopes that one or more of these states will raise Pastor Saeed’s case in oral comments at the Council’s next plenary session. Our #SaveSaeed campaign continues to gather momentum – as thousands upon thousands of Americans are tweeting, Facebooking, and signing our petition – so now is the time to bring additional international pressure on the Iranian government. This pressure has worked before, to free Iranian Pastor Youcef, and we believe it can work again, but we must be relentless. Your voice has been heard here at home, as the White House and Secretary of State have called for Pastor Saeed’s release. Now, your voice is being heard in the United Nations. Iran must be held accountable.