Sir Ian Blair & Lord Goldsmith refuse to enforce anti-torture law
Iranian ex-President should be put on trial, not feted by St Andrew’s
London – 31 October 2006
The former President of the Islamist dictatorship of Iran, Mohammad
Khatami, will today be awarded an honorary doctorate of law by St
Andrews University in Scotland.
“During his eight-year tenure as President of Iran, from 1997 to 2004,
thousands of Iranians were detained without trial and subjected to
savage torture by Iran’s secret police. Over 200 people were
executed,” said human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.
“Giving Khatami an honorary doctorate is the moral equivalent of
honouring Chilean ex-dictator Augusto Pinochet.
“Well known victims of state-sanctioned murder during Khatami’s rule
include the Iranian-Canadian photographer, Zahra Kazemi, who was
tortured and battered to death by Iranian security agents in 2003, and
four copper mine workers who were shot dead in Shahr Babak, Kerman
province, in 2004, when they staged a peaceful protest against
“Khatami never spoke out against these abuses, let alone acted to halt
“Yesterday, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, and
the Attorney-General, Lord Goldsmith, turned down requests for
Khatami’s arrest on torture charges.
“The police were presented with affidavits by two Iranian refugees who
say they were unjustly imprisoned and brutally tortured while Khatami
was in office. Safa Einollahi, 29, and Ali Ebrahimi, 34, claim that,
as President, Khatami was ultimately responsible for their torture.
“Khatami failed to use his office of state to protect them and the
thousands of other torture victims.
“Einollahi and Ebrahimi had applied to the Met Police to have Khatami
arrested under Section 134 of the Criminal Justice Act 1998. This
requires the arrest of any individual, regardless of nationality,
where there is evidence that they have committed, condoned or colluded
with acts of torture. The legislation has a universal jurisdiction,
and therefore covers torture committed by Iranians against Iranians in
Iran. Its enforcement is obligatory, not optional, under UK law.
“Section 134, which incorporates the UN Convention Against Torture
1984 into UK law, also holds high state officials responsible if they
fail to stop torture. There is no evidence that Khatami made any
attempt to halt the use of torture by Iran’s security agents, which
makes him culpable under Section 134.
“Despite the compelling prima facie evidence in Einollahi’s and
Ebrahimi’s affidavits, Sir Ian Blair and Lord Goldsmith have
pre-empted any judicial consideration of the case against Khatami.
They have not only vetoed his arrest, but the police have refused
point blank to even question Khatami about the allegations.
“What is the point of having human rights laws if people accused of
serious crimes like torture are never even questioned by the police,
let alone bought before a judge to have the evidence against them
“Yet again the hypocrisy of the New Labour government is exposed. It
talks tough about tackling human rights abuses but looks the other way
when confronted by evidence of an alleged torturer in our midst,” said
Foreign Press Association – news conference today
4pm, Tuesday 31 October 2006
FPA, 11 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5AJ
The debate will be chaired by Nazenin Ansari, FPA vice-president,
Kayhan Publishing, and will discuss Mr Khatami's visit, his honorary
degree and human rights abuses in Iran.
Speakers on the panel:
One of the two tortured Iranian students who launched a law suit
against Mr Khatami; Mr Hamid Sabi; Majid Khabazan from Fars News
Agency; and Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner.
The Sunday Times reports
that Einollahi was arrested in July 2003, soon after attending a
student rally in Tehran.
“I was left blindfolded for eight hours in a room so tiny that I
couldn’t move,” he said. “Then I was interrogated by two agents who
wanted the names of my activist friends. They beat me until I passed
out. I was left bleeding and injured for a day in a cell with no
A report by his doctor documents how his torturers thrust batons and
bottles into his rectum. It states that he is awaiting surgery for a
loss of bowel control, and cites other lasting physical and
Ebrahimi says he was arrested in 1999 for participating in a sit-in
protest at Shiraz University against the government’s mistreatment of
During his six-month imprisonment he reports that he was strung up,
beaten on the soles of his feet with thick cables, pummelled with
batons, had a nail wrenched from his finger with pliers and was anally
raped with a bottle.
“I feared for my life,” he told The Sunday Times. “They threatened me
with the end, they said nobody knew where I was, nobody could do
anything. I didn’t know if it was day or night. I thought I would be
executed. But somehow I survived. I feel I have been born again in
Britain. I want to use my freedom of speech in Britain to speak out
against what is happening to my people in Iran,” said Ebrahimi.
Further information: Peter Tatchell 020 7403 1790