WASHINGTON ― A United Nations human rights group called on the Iranian government to release U.S. citizens Siamak and Baquer Namazi, describing their imprisonment as a violation of international law.
The U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention delivered its 11-page opinion to the Iranian government and the Namazis’ lawyer earlier this month. Jared Genser, a lawyer who is representing the Namazis, released it on Monday, ahead of the annual gathering of world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly this week.
The working group, established in 1991, is an independent body with members appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council. While it has little ability to compel countries to comply with its recommendations, the body’s findings on the Namazis’ case puts additional pressure on the Iranian government to negotiate the release of Siamak, 46, and his 80-year-old father.
Siamak, who worked at an oil and gas company in Dubai, was arrested in October 2015 when he came to Iran to visit family. Baquer, a former UNICEF official, was arrested the following February when he came to the country after being promised he would be allowed to see his son in Evin prison. They have each been sentenced to 10 years in prison on charges of colluding with an enemy state ― a reference to the United States. Neither Siamak nor Baquer had meaningful access to lawyers or the right to defend themselves in court, the working group wrote in its opinion.
The working group wrote that “there is nothing to indicate that they ever acted against the national interests of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” calling for the Namazis’ immediate release and a right to reparations.
Genser first appealed to the U.N. working group in April, arguing that Tehran is arbitrarily depriving Siamak and Baquer of their freedom and imprisoning them in conditions that amount to torture. The U.N. working group largely agreed with Genser’s allegations, concluding that the Iranian government denied the father and son due process. Their detention, the group wrote in its opinion, appeared to be part of the Iranian government’s “emerging practice” of locking up dual Iranian-American citizens. The working group expressed “grave concern” about the deteriorating health of both men.
The timing of the release of the working group’s opinion is deliberate. World leaders, including Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and President Donald Trump, will gather in New York this week for the U.N. General…