Skip to main content

Iran should immediately remove Tehran’s notoriously abusive prosecutor general from its delegation to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, Human Rights Watch said today. The prosecutor general, Saeed Mortazavi has been implicated in torture, illegal detention, and coercing false confessions by numerous former prisoners.

“Iran’s decision to send Mortazavi to Geneva demonstrates utter contempt for human rights and for the new council,” said Joe Stork deputy director of Middle East and North Africa division for Human Rights Watch. “Iran has just confirmed why U.N. members refused to elect it to the Human Rights Council.”

In April 2000, Mortazavi, then the judge of Public Court Branch 1410, led a massive crackdown to silence growing dissent in Iran. He ordered the closure of more than 100 newspapers and journals. In 2003, he was promoted to the post of Tehran’s prosecutor general. In 2002, a human rights expert appointed by the old U.N. Commission on Human Rights to monitor the human rights situation in Iran took the extraordinary step of naming Mortazavi publicly in his report and calling for him to be suspended from the bench.

Iranian-Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi died in June 2003 while in the custody of judiciary and security agents led by Mortazavi. Lawyers representing Kazemi’s family have alleged that her body showed signs of torture, including blows to her head, and that Mortazavi participated directly in her interrogation.

In 2004, Mortazavi orchestrated the arbitrary detention of more than 20 webloggers and internet journalists, who were held in secret prisons. Human Rights Watch collected testimonies from several of these detainees who implicated Mortazavi in their ordeal, which included lengthy solitary confinement and coercion to make false televised confessions.

“Iran has brought Mortazavi to Geneva instead of bringing him to justice,” Stork said. “This decision should make Mortazavi the poster child for rampant impunity in Iran.”

Human Rights Watch urged Iran to hold Mortazavi to account in particular for the allegations of torture, and to remove him from office. Governments participating in the Human Rights Council session should seek Mortazavi’s removal from the Iranian delegation, Human Rights Watch said, and should refuse to meet with the delegation while Mortazavi remains a member.

All U.N. member states were invited to send representatives to speak during this first week of the Human Rights Council, which was created last month to replace the old commission. More than 100 countries are scheduled to address the body.

For further information on Mortazavi, please see:

Essential Background: Overview of human rights issues in Iran

"Like the Dead in Their Coffins: Torture, Detention, and the Crushing of Dissent in Iran

False Freedom: Online Censorship in the Middle East and North Africa

Iran: Judiciary Uses Coercion to Cover Up Torture

Iran: Journalists Receive Death Threats After Testifying

Your tax deductible gift can help stop human rights violations and save lives around the world.

Region / Country