The brother of detained Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian urged a U.N. rights panel Tuesday to help obtain the journalist’s release from an Iranian prison where he awaits a verdict after a trial on charges including espionage.
Ali Rezaian, speaking to the U.N. Human Rights Committee at its meeting in Geneva, said Iran has violated its international commitments and its own law in detaining his brother for nearly 14 months and trying him in closed-door sessions of the Revolutionary Court.
Jason Rezaian, The Post’s correspondent in Tehran, has strongly denied the charges. The case has brought widespread denunciations from Post executives, press-freedom groups and high-level U.S. officials.
“To the extent Jason is being held for domestic or international political leverage, such tactics are illegal and inhumane,” Ali Rezaian said. “He and other journalists must not be imprisoned for exercising their rights and doing their jobs.”
The Human Rights Committee monitors how nations implement the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Founded as a forum for complaints about human rights abuses, it has no enforcement power, and critics say it lacks other leverage.
But the timing of Rezaian’s plea to the committee is awkward for Iran.
President Hassan Rouhani is preparing to travel to New York to attend the annual U.N. General Assembly this month, and he is planning meetings with scholars and journalists to present Iran’s views on the nuclear agreement recently reached with six world powers, including the United States.
Though the Obama administration has secured enough support in Congress to ensure the deal’s implementation, opposition remains strong. Polls show that most Americans mistrust Iran and expect it to cheat on its commitment to not seek nuclear weapons in exchange for the lifting of sanctions.
Many members of Congress have criticized the administration for negotiating with Iran without obtaining the release of Rezaian and two other Americans held in prisons there, or getting information on the whereabouts of a fourth American, who disappeared in Iran.
In his statement to the committee, Ali Rezaian noted that his brother has been in custody for 420 days. He was not charged for almost five months and spent months in solitary confinement.
“Jason has been mistreated and psychologically abused,” Rezaian said. “He has suffered serious untreated infections, lost [55 pounds], and struggled with respiratory and other complications. His mental health deteriorates daily in the face of prolonged isolation and intimidation.”
As a member of the United Nations, Iran is bound by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
“Yet, in this case, Iran has repeatedly — and to this date with impunity — violated those laws,” Ali Rezaian said.
The committee also heard from Thomas Hughes, executive director of Article 19, a group dedicated to freedom of expression. It takes its name from a section of the human rights declaration that enshrines that right.
“Jason’s case is emblematic of the fact that arbitrary detention remains Iran’s primary tool to suppress freedom of expression,” Hughes said. “Iran’s trial procedures make a mockery of international standards and domestic law.”
Hughes cited two other journalists imprisoned in Iran whose cases he said are similar to Rezaian’s.