Reporters Without Borders said today it was "essential" that sanctions against Iran are adopted without delay by the UN Commission on Human Rights, which began its annual session yesterday in Geneva.
"After 19 years of successive condemnations, Iran has slipped through the commission's net since 2001 on the grounds that the European Union is engaged in a dialogue with Tehran, but violations of free expression and the physical integrity of journalists have been continuing," the press freedom organization said.
"The human rights commission must defend journalists who are censored, threatened, arbitrarily detained, mistreated and sometimes tortured in Iran for doing their job," Reporters Without Borders added.
Relatives of Iranian journalists who have been the victim of repression will demonstrate today into Geneva to demand the justice they have so far failed to obtain, although they complained to international judicial bodies three years ago.
The relatives of journalists Darioush and Paravaneh Forouhar, Mohammad Mokhtari, Mohammad Jafar Pouyandeh and Pirouz Davani, as well as relatives of human rights lawyer Nasser Zarafshan, will be among those participating in the protest, which is supported by Reporters Without Borders.
More than 10 newspapers have been temporarily suspended or closed down altogether and at least 60 journalists have been summoned for questioning since the human rights commission's last session in March 2004.
Many of these journalist have been the victim of "white torture" in prison, in which they are put in solitary confinement for several months and subjected to interrogation sessions in which the soles of their feet are sometimes beaten with wire. With 13 journalists and bloggers currently detained, Iran is the Middle East's biggest prison for the press.
Iran agreed in 2002 to accept visits from UN working groups but so far only two have been able to go. A working group on arbitrary detention visited Iran from 15 to 27 February 2003, while one on free expression visited from 4 to 10 November 2004.
The rapporteurs of the two groups reported : "a deterioration in the situation of freedom of expression in Iran, with a growing number of newspapers closed and journalists imprisoned, often beyond the legal limit for provisional detention. The systematic repression of all critical opinion as regards the regime's political or religious institutions has installed a climate of fear leading to self-censorship and, in particular, the rapporteurs have observed the use of arbitrary procedures by the judicial institutions violating the most basic rights of defendants, who are tried in secret hearings without a lawyer being present."
The rapporteurs also noted "very harsh prison conditions, including long periods in solitary confinement, that are equivalent to torture."
No measures have been adopted two years after the reports of these working groups were published.
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