Lawyers worldwide challenge denial of persecution of Baha’is in Iran


GENEVA—10 February 2018—

In a striking show of solidarity, twenty-five prominent professors, lawyers, and judges from around the world have addressed the head of Iran’s High Council for Human Rights, Mr. Mohammad Javad Larijani, asking him to acknowledge and take steps to remedy the persecution of the Baha’is in Iran.

The open letter, reported on by the British newspaper the Times, brings attention to a website – recently established by the Baha’i International Community and called The Archives of the Persecution of the Baha’is in Iran – that evidences the persecution of the Baha’is over the past decades.

The website makes available for the first time thousands of documents, first-hand reports, testimonials, and audio-visual materials. It was created in response to rising interest both internationally and within Iran by journalists, researchers, activists and others to understand the depth and breadth of the persecution.

The open letter calls on Mr. Larijani to review the contents of the new site and to reconsider statements he and other Iranian officials have made to deny the discrimination against the Baha’is. Referring to these statements, the letter remarks that the records on the Archives “present a different story”.

The website “vividly demonstrates the depth and breadth of unjust, relentless, and systematic oppression against a religious minority”, the letter states, adding that it “provides evidence… which contrasts sharply with statements of denial made over the years by the Iranian authorities.”

It cites examples of the persecution found on the website covering a wide range of violations by Iranian authorities, including arrest and imprisonment, execution, economic oppression, denial of education, acts of destruction and violence, and incitement to hatred. These include:

  • A court verdict from the government’s Department of Justice regarding the murder of a Baha’i man which states that, “as the victim was a Baha’i at the time of accident… and the fact that the provision of blood money [diyeh] is only legally applicable to Muslims”, the accused is acquitted of charges.
  • An official letter from the General Office of the Department of Education in Tehran to a junior high school student which states that she “was a very well-behaved student”, but that she was being expelled “in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic as she is a follower of the Baha’i sect”.
  • A letter from the General Affairs Educational Office of the University of Isfahan to a student states that, as she is “a follower of the Baha’i sect”, she is “not permitted to pursue [her] studies”.
  • A letter from the Court of Administrative Justice to a person with disabilities informs him that he has been “dismissed from his job due to his membership in the Baha’i sect”, that his pension benefits have been stopped, and that his further complaints to the court are “deemed invalid and rejected”.
  • A letter from the Ministry of Education to one of its employees states that she is “dismissed from service in the [Ministry] of Education” and is “ordered to return all salaries received” as she is “affiliated with the illegal Baha’i sect”.

The persecution, as detailed by the Archives, “represents violations of international law, including a number of treaties to which Iran is a party,” and “demonstrates a breach of Iran’s [own] obligations”, the letter says. Quoting from the Iranian constitution, which states that “the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and Muslims are required to treat the non-Muslim individuals with good conduct, in fairness and Islamic justice, and must respect their human rights”, the signatories ask:

“How can the prevention of thousands of young people from access to university be considered fair? How can Islamic justice be upheld when efforts are made to exclude an entire community from participating in the economic life of their own country? How can human rights be respected when innocent individuals are arbitrarily arrested, tortured, and imprisoned for many years; or when they are legally deprived of the right to seek justice for crimes committed against them and when the perpetrators are treated with impunity?”

The signatories hail from various countries throughout the world, such as Brazil, Canada, Germany, India, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

The letter was signed by the following academics and lawyers, listed in alphabetical order:


Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na‘im

Charles Howard Candler Professor of Law

Emory University School of Law


Mehrsa Baradaran

Associate Dean for Strategic Initiatives and

J. Alton Hosch Associate Professor of Law

University of Georgia School of Law


Upendra Baxi

Emeritus Professor of Law in Development

University of Warwick


Kirsty Brimelow QC

International Human Rights Lawyer

Doughty Street Chambers

Chair of Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales


Khaled Abou El Fadl


Omar and Azmeralda Alfi Professor of Law

Deputy Chair of Islamic Studies Program

University of California, Los Angeles School of Law


Lord Anthony Gifford QC

Doughty Street Chambers

Senior Partner

Gifford Thompson & Bright


Richard Goldstone

Retired Justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa

First UN Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda


Claudio Grossman

Professor of Law, Dean Emeritus

Raymond I. Geraldson Scholar for International and Humanitarian Law

American University Washington College of Law


Christof Heyns

Professor of Human Rights Law

Director of the Institute for International and Comparative Law in Africa

University of Pretoria


Cora Hoexter

Professor of Law

University of the Witwatersrand School of Law


Baroness Helena Ann Kennedy QC

Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws

Justice of the British arm of the International Commission of Jurists

Principal of Mansfield College Oxford


Karim A. A. Khan QC

International Human Rights Lawyer

Temple Garden Chambers

Former Legal Advisor in the Office of the Prosecutor in the United Nations

International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda


Piet Meiring

Emeritus Professor of Theology

University of Pretoria

Former member of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission


Juan E. Mendez

Professor of Human Rights Law in Residence

Washington College of Law

Former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture


Sir Geoffrey Nice QC

Professor of Law

Gresham College

Former UN Prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia


Michael J. Perry

Robert W. Woodruff Professor of Law

Emory University School of Law


Niels Petersen

Professor of Public Law, International and European Law

University of Münster


Catherine Powell

Professor of Law

Fordham Law School


René Provost

Professor of Law

Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism

McGill University


Jaya Ramji-Nogales

Associate Dean for Academic Affairs

I. Herman Stern Research Professor

Temple University, Beasley School of Law


Ingo Wolfgang Sarlet

Professor of Constitutional Law

Pontifical Catholic University

Judge of the Rio Grande do Sul State Appeals Court


Soli Sorabjee

Senior Advocate

Supreme Court of India

Former Attorney General for India


Patrick Thornberry, CMG

Emeritus Professor of International Law

Keele University

Former member of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination


Hildebrando Tadeu Valadares

Ambassador (ret.) of Brazil


Johan D. van der Vyver

I. T. Cohen Professor of International Law and Human Rights

Emory University School of Law


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