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UNHCR Concerned About Arbitrary Arrests in Iran

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said she is concerned over the possible illegal use of excessive force and acts of violence by some militia members in the aftermath of the recent disputed presidential election in Iran.

Her Spokesman, Rupert Colville, said the High Commissioner does not have an exact number of how many people have been arrested, but it is believed to be in the hundreds. He said those who have been arbitrarily arrested include human rights defenders, political activists and journalists.

He said the manner in which the arrests have taken place raises a number of troubling questions.

"What are the grounds for the arrests? Have proper warrants been issued in accordance with Iranian law? Why have some of those who have been arrested been denied access to lawyers and members of their families? And, why is the whereabouts of others completely unknown?" He asked.

High Commissioner Pillay is urging the Iranian authorities to make sure due process is followed. To do otherwise, she warned, may fan feelings of injustice.

She noted freedom of expression and freedom of assembly are fundamental human rights. She commended the largely peaceful and dignified conduct of the demonstrators.

Her spokesman, Rupert Colville, said Pillay is particularly concerned about reported acts of violence by members of the Basij militia, which may also be in contravention of international and Iranian national law.

"She strongly urges the authorities to ensure that official and semi-official forces act strictly in accordance with the law," he said. "It is the responsibility of the government to ensure that militia members and regular law enforcement agencies do not resort to illegal acts of violence. If they are perceived to be acting outside the law, it could provoke a serious deterioration in the security situation, which would be a great tragedy and is in nobody's interests," he added.

The High Commissioner has reminded the Iranian authorities they have signed several International Conventions that guarantee no one should be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention and guarantee the right of freedom of speech and assembly. She said they should live up to their legal obligations.