ARTICLE 19 welcomes the release of Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, along with 4 other prisoners on 16 January 2016, but maintains its call for sustained international pressure for the immediate release of remaining journalists and political prisoners detained for peacefully exercising free expression.
“The release of Jason Rezaian and 4 other prisoners is a positive step taken by Iran, however numerous journalists and political prisoners remain behind bars. We must continue to place international pressure on Iran to abide by its international human rights commitments and release all those still imprisoned for freely expressing themselves immediately and unconditionally,” stated ARTICLE 19’s Executive Director, Thomas Hughes.
ARTICLE 19 calls for the release of remaining journalists, artists and activists, including Hadi Heydari, Saeed Razavi Faghih, Mehvash Sabet, Ehsan Mazandarani, Hila Sadeghi, Hossein Ronaghi, Saeed Malekpour, Atena Faraghdani, Nargess Mohammadi, Bahareh Hedayat, Atena Daemi, Mohammad-Reza Alipayam and Mostafa Azizi who have all been detained for legitimately exercising their right to free expression.
Jason Rezaian was arbitrarily detained on 22 July 2014 and subsequently sentenced without due process. He should have never been arrested in the first place and the charges were never made clear, yet the release is welcome news for Rezaian’s family, who have tirelessly campaigned for his release.
ARTICLE 19 has advocated for the release of Jason Rezaian since 2014. In September 2015, ARTICLE 19 also supported Jason’s brother, Ali Rezaian, in addressing the UN Human Rights Council and calling for Jason’s release.
The 16 January 2016 marked “Implementation Day” and the start of the relief of sanctions on Iran. This day also saw a historical “prisoner swap”, seeing the release of 5 U.S. citizens (4 of whom are U.S.-Iranians) by Iran, and 7 Iranians who were held in the United States for violating sanctions. Amongst those released were Pastor Saeed Abedini who was arrested for his religious convictions and writer and researcher Matthew Trevithick, although the exact reason for his arrest remains unclear.
International scrutiny of the human rights situation in Iran should not be weakened, notwithstanding the progress on the nuclear deal and prisoner exchange. Instead, any increased diplomatic engagement should be leveraged to push for real human rights improvements in Iran. Including for the release of all those detained for expressing themselves.
This must include maintaining scrutiny on Iran through the UN Human Rights Council, in particular the mandate of Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran. Ahmed Shaheed, the present mandate holder, has been raising Rezaian’s case internationally since his detention, and continues to advocate for those still behind bars. It is therefore crucial that the international community support the mandate, and seek its renewal in 2016.