Sunday, June 26, 2016

UN rights experts: Arrests, heavy fines for artistic expression in Iran ‘unacceptable’

United Nations human rights experts on cultural rights and on freedom of expression have expressed concern at the imprisonment and imposition of heavy fines against three artists in Iran earlier this month and have called for their immediate release.
In a statement issued on Friday by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, Karima Bennoune, and Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, said that the conviction and sentencing of artists is entirely unacceptable and is in complete violation of the Iranian regime’s obligations under international human rights law.
They have also called for all charges to be dropped.
The expert’s call has also been endorsed by the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, and the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan E. Méndez.
Musicians Mehdi Rajabian and Yousef Emadi, and filmmaker Hossein Rajabian were sentenced to six years in prison and fined 50 million Rials (about $1,658) each for “insulting Islamic sanctities,” “propaganda against the State” and for “conducing illegal activities in the audiovisual affaires including through producing prohibited audiovisual material and performing an illegal and underground music site.” On appeal, the prison sentence was reduced to three years.
Mr. Kaye said that "detaining someone on the grounds of ‘insulting the sacred’ and ‘propaganda against the state’ is incompatible with international human rights standards.”
Ms. Bennoune expressed “dismay” at the allegations that the artists were forced to make self-incriminating televised “confessions” to the charges of producing prohibited audiovisual materials, and apologize for broadcasting the voice of female singers.
She said that the action of the Iranian regime against the artists has serious repercussions for others in the country and that it results in unjustifiable restrictions on the right of all persons in Iran to have access to and enjoy the arts. “Artistic expression is simply not a crime,” Ms. Bennoune concluded.
“The arrest, conviction and sentencing of artists is entirely unacceptable and in complete violation of international human rights law binding on Iran. The three artists should be released immediately and all charges dropped,” they concluded.
Special Rapporteurs are appointed by the Geneva-based Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme.

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