U.N. Human Rights Experts Call on Iran to Release American Journalist Jason Rezaian

AP Photo/Vahid Salemi
AP Photo/Vahid Salemi

The Washington Post asked the United Nations to support its demand for the release of captive journalist Jason Rezaian, held prisoner for over a year by the Iranian regime on absurd charges of “espionage.” As Rezaian’s long, secret “trial” grinds on, several U.N. human-rights experts have expressed their concerns.

“The arrest, detention and secret trial of Mr. Rezaian violate his rights and intimidate all those working in the media in Iran,” said David Kaye, the U.N. special rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, as reported at the Washington Post. “His continued detention violates basic rules that not only aim to protect journalists, bloggers, human rights activists and others, but to guarantee everyone’s right to information.”

Seong-Phil Hong, head of the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, said that Jason Rezaian “seems to have been detained for the simple fact of having exercised his rights to freedom of expression, association and political participation,” while his “rights to legal counsel of his choice and to due process of law seem to have been forgotten.”

Given that this is the sort of “trial” where no one is allowed to watch the proceedings, not even Rezaian’s wife and mother, and he met his lawyer on the first day he was dragged into court, that seems like a reasonable assessment of what seems to be going on in this unseemly charade.

“Mr. Rezaian’s case is part of a broader crackdown on freedom of expression in Iran,” said the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, Ahmed Shadeed. “Journalists must be protected, not harassed, detained or prosecuted.”

The Washington Post petitioned the U.N. Working Group for assistance with the Rezaian case last month. While the group is still considering a request for urgent action, the three U.N. officials appealed to Iran for the journalist’s immediate release on Friday.

Washington Post executive editor Martin Baron described it as “a powerful call for the government of Iran to uphold its international legal obligations in a case that has been anything but just.” He said the call comes at a “critical moment,” as the verdict from Iran’s Revolutionary Court on those “nonsensical and unsupportable charges” is due any day.

Baron said Iran’s conduct in the “contemptible” case “has violated international law, Iran’s own laws, and fundamental human decency.”

The statement also criticized the way Rezaian has been treated by his Iranian captors, including solitary confinement, all-day interrogation sessions, and other “unlawful treatment,” resulting in “significant physical and psychological strain, including dramatic weight loss, respiratory problems and chronic infections.”

Iran was further urged to release “all those exercising their rights to expression who have been arbitrarily arrested, detained and prosecuted.”