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United Nations22.06.2006

UN urged to respond to Canada’s condemnation of Said Mortazavi’s presence in Geneva

Reporters Without Borders welcomes the Canadian government’s condemnation of Tehran chief prosecutor Said Mortazavi’s presence as an Iranian delegate at the inaugural session of the new United Nations human rights council.

Reporters Without Borders today hailed Canada’s condemnation yesterday of Tehran chief prosecutor Said Mortazavi’s presence as an Iranian delegate at the UN human rights council’s inaugural session, and urged Canadian foreign minister Peter MacKay to press for a rapid explanation and response from the council’s president and the UN high commissioner for human rights.

“The presence in Geneva of Mortazavi, a man who was directly involved in the death of Canadian-Iranian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi, is absolutely unacceptable,” the president of Reporters Without Borders Canada, François Bugingo, said. “We are now waiting for the United Nations to act on this condemnation and not let it become a dead letter.”

Mortazavi is believed to have had a leading role in Kazemi’s death in July 2003. Kazemi was arrested on 23 June 2003 while photographing the families of prisoners outside Evin prison just north of Tehran. Tortured while in detention, she died from her injuries on 10 July 2003.

“By sending Said Mortazavi as a human rights delegate to Geneva, the Iranian government is showing its real face,” Kazemi’s son, Stephan Hachemi, said.

Those responsible for Kazemi’s murder still remain unpunished despite Canadian government pressure on Tehran. In 2002, the year prior to her death, UN human rights commission special representative Maurice Copithorne was told by a senior Iranian judicial official that Mortazavi was one of 40 judges being investigated by a judicial disciplinary court. Copithorne had responded by recommending Mortazavi’s immediate suspension pending a decision on his case by the disciplinary court.

Iran continues to be the Middle East’s biggest prison for journalists and bloggers, with 13 jailed last year. Threats, interrogation, summonses, arrests and arbitrary detention are all on the increase. Journalists often manage to stay out of prison only by paying very high bail. The situation has not improved since hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took over as president.