UN and Human Rights organisations condemn sentencing of Iranian activist

The international community outraged after Narges Mohammadi, the ailing Iranian human rights activist, was given an additional ten-year sentence to serve by a revolutionary court in Tehran along with her existing six year jail term

Prisoner of conscience Narges Mohammadi may serve a total of 16 years in prison for advocating for human rights in Iran
Prisoner of conscience Narges Mohammadi may serve a total of 16 years in prison for advocating for human rights in Iran

Mohammadi, a 44-year-old mother of two, was found guilty of “establishing and running the illegal splinter group Legam”, a human rights movement that campaigns for the abolition of the death penalty. Should an upper court uphold the judgment, she will have to serve the full sentence.

Mohammadi won the 2009 Alexander Langer award for her human rights activities, especially her efforts to end the death penalty for juvenile offenders in Iran. In 2016, she received the City of Paris medal for her peaceful activism.

Mohammadi has fallen foul of the authorities partly because of her links to the Iranian Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi, who has been forced into exile. As deputy head of the DHRC, Mohammadi was a close colleague of Ebadi, who presided over the organisation.

Mohammadi had originally been sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment in September 2011 when she was found guilty of acting against national security, membership in Iran’s rights organisation Defenders of Human Rights Centre (DHRC), and propaganda against the state, but an appeals court reduced the term to six years in March 2012 and she subsequently served three months before being released on bail. She was arrested last May to serve the remainder of a six-year sentence.

After a previous arrest, in 2010, Mohammadi was kept in solitary confinement in Tehran’s Evin prison, where she developed an undiagnosed disease that has been likened to epilepsy and causes her temporarily to lose control over her muscles. She has reportedly not been granted adequate access to the specialised medical care she needs.


The UN Human Rights Office and other human rights mechanisms have long urged the Iranian authorities to release Mohammadi, but to no avail.

The UN high commissioner for human rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein condemned Mohammadi’s treatment.

“We are appalled by the sentencing of a prominent Iranian anti-death penalty campaigner, Narges Mohammadi, to 16 years’ imprisonment in charges that stem from her courageous human rights work,” said high commissioner spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani.

 “Her sentencing is illustrative of an increasingly low tolerance for human rights advocacy in Iran. We urge the Iranian authorities to ensure the immediate release of Mohammadi and all those detained for merely exercising their human rights.”

The Paris-based Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders condemned “the ongoing judicial harassment against the arbitrarily imprisoned human rights defender”, and urged Iran to release her immediately.

 “Ten years in prison for a well-respected advocate for peaceful civil activities demonstrates the Islamic Republic’s refusal to tolerate any peaceful dissent,” Hadi Ghaemi, a representative from the New York-based International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said. “President Hassan Rouhani’s intelligence ministry is responsible for detaining and building the case for Mohammadi’s prosecution by the judiciary, and now it is president Rouhani’s responsibility to make every effort for her release and ensure Iran’s citizens that ministries under his authority will not trample on their rights and freedoms,” he added.

Director of the Middle East and North Africa programme at Amnesty International Philip Luther said Mohammadi’s sentence was another example of Iran’s use of “vaguely-worded national security charges” against peaceful activists.

“There’s no doubt that she’s being unjustly punished for her steadfast commitment to human rights,” he said. “The authorities have made clear their ruthless determination to silence human rights defenders and instil fear in would-be critics of their policies. Narges Mohammadi is a prisoner of conscience and the Iranian authorities should immediately and unconditionally release her and quash her conviction.”