Open Letter from Kerry Kennedy to Secretary General

His Excellency António Guterres


United Nations

12 February 2018

Dear Secretary-General Guterres:

On December 28, 2017, Iranians took the streets in peaceful protest in Mashhad, one of Shiite Islam’s holiest places. Within days, thousands of Iranians throughout the country had joined in similar demonstrations. The protestors were responding to declining economic conditions, lack of personal freedoms, and corruption; some could be heard calling for Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to step down. Unfortunately, the Iranian regime responded to these protests with violence, including deadly force. On December 30, at least two demonstrators were shot in the western town of Dorud. As you know, those rights were not respected, and approximately 3,700 protesters were arrested for their participation.

While some of the individuals arrested have been released, the fate of those that remain detained is unknown. There is reason to be seriously concerned for their well-being. On January 9, 2018, Human Rights Watch issued a press statement detailing information about two detainees who had been arrested during the protests and died in detention.

Iran is a State party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and as such is obligated to guarantee the right to life, to freedoms of peaceful assembly and expression, to be free from arbitrary arrest, and to be treated humanely while in detention for all the individuals under its jurisdiction however critical of the government they may be. Credible media reports provide strong and compelling evidence that Iran failed to meet its obligations during the protests and is failing to meet its obligations now. As such, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran should be permitted to visit the country immediately, and should be given unfettered access to detention facilities, as well as victims of human rights violations and their families.

I urge you to press the Iranian government to comply with its obligations under international human rights law, including the release of all the individuals that were arrested for exercising their fundamental rights to engage in peaceful protest.



Kerry Kennedy

President, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights