Although we have proven to the Swedish government on several occasions that its refugee status determination and refoulement procedures are functionally illegal and will undeniably result in the persecution, torture and execution of returned Iranian political asylum-seekers in need of protection, the right-wing coalition Swedish government again intends to illegally deport Iranian opposition activist Sanan Ashrafi back into the hands of the Islamic Republic.
The government of Sweden has already purchased Mr. Ashrafi’s airline tickets bearing the date of July 1, 2011. There is thus very little time in which to work to stop this deportation.
We have drafted an open letter to Sweden’s Minister for Migration and Asylum Policy, Tobias Billström. We urgently ask you to contribute by immediately sending this letter or your own version to the following email addresses: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Please also urgently copy/paste this or your own version & add your own signature to the webforms for contacting Tobias Billström, Swedish Minister for Migration and Asylum Policy and his Press Secretary Linda Norberg.
Open Letter to Tobias Billström, Swedish Minister for Migration and Asylum Policy, Regarding the Illegal Refoulement of Opposition Activist Sanan Ashrafi (case #11220571).
To Tobias Billström, Minister for Migration and Asylum Policy, Sweden:
I am writing to you with regard to the urgent case of Sanan Ashrafi, an Iranian asylum-seeker who has sought refuge in Sweden from persecution by the Islamic Republic of Iran (case no. 11220571). Mr. Ashrafi is an Iranian opposition activist who has engaged in political struggle against the Islamic Republic both inside and outside of Iran. While living in Kurdistan, Iran, he was an active member of Worker-communist Party of Iran – Hekmatist, including the armed wing of the organization, Guard Azadi. Among other organizational activities, he was involved in arranging a demonstration in Sanandaj. The demonstration was in protest against the killing of a young boy by the name of Shoana Ghader, who was tortured to death by Iranian police.
As a result of his humane act of opposing the murder-by-torture of this young boy, Mr. Ashrafi spent 6 months under torture himself in the Islamic Republic’s prisons, during which time he was interrogated under intense pressure 26 times as the regime sought to establish his connections to the Worker-communist Party of Iran – Hekmatist. Mr. Ashrafi was tortured in the form of beatings against all parts of his body and kicks to his stomach and genitals. He was hung from his arms above his head. He received blows to his kidneys, and the Islamic Republic authorities hung weights from his testicles.
In addition to being an opposition activist and a member of a Communist party – either of which alone can result in a death sentence in Iran, Mr. Ashrafi is a declared atheist; this is called “apostasy” in Iran and is also punishable by death under Shari’a law. Despite all of these facts, the government of Sweden has outrageously denied Sanan Ashrafi’s application for asylum and is illegally implementing his deportation on July 1, 2011 – an act that will result in his execution in Iran.
This right-wing coalition Swedish government must immediately halt the illegal refoulement of Iranian opposition activist Sanan Ashrafi. The justifications for this demand in Mr. Ashrafi’s case are as follows:
1- Most fundamentally, Mr. Ashrafi meets all criteria for formal recognition as a refugee under Article 33 (1) of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees; it is thus illegal to refoule him. Sweden, as a signatory to the UN Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, is required under this convention, and consequently under jus cogens international law, to comply with the inalienable rights of refugees to asylum, protection and no forced return to their country of origin. [Article 33 (1) states that: “No Contracting State shall expel or return (‘refouler’) a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.”]
2- Deportation of Mr. Ashrafi to Iran constitutes an execution sentence imposed by Sweden. Sanan Ashrafi has engaged in political struggle against the criminal and illegitimate regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran and has been held under torture for 6 months for doing so. The Islamic Republic has set ample precedent for executing or sentencing to death activists like Mr. Ashrafi, of which the Swedish government is well-aware. Furthermore, as a declared atheist, he is subject to execution by the Islamic Republic of Iran for the so-called crime of apostasy. Examples of the Islamic Republic’s policy and practice of executing people for political activism and apostasy include:
– Farzad Kamangar, Ali Heidarian, Shirin Alam Houli, Mehdi Eslamian and Farhad Vakili, who were executed en masse on 9 May 2010 in Kurdistan on charges of moharebeh (“war against God,” a political charge which would unquestionably be brought to bear against Sanan Ashrafi if he were to be illegally refouled to Iran).
– Hossein Khezri, who was executed on January 15, 2011 on charges of anti-regime propaganda and collaborating with anti-regime groups (again, charges that would doubtless be brought to bear in Mr. Ashrafi’s case).
– Christian priest Yousef Nadarkhani, who is currently under execution sentence in Iran for apostasy. Another Iranian asylum-seeker who sought refuge in Sweden, Keivan Soufastaie, had documentation from the Islamic Republic of Iran regarding the charge of apostasy on which the authorities were seeking to prosecute him. Note that this is despite the fact that there is no provision in the current Islamic Penal Code for the “crime” of apostasy; rather, authorities in Iran are handing down execution sentences for apostasy on the basis of Shari’a law.
– More broadly, renowned international jurist Geoffrey Robertson, Q.C., has documented the Islamic Republic’s intent and practice to eradicate those who were born Muslim but later renounced Islam. He has categorized the Islamic Republic’s practice in this regard as genocide, in line with the definition set forth in the Genocide Convention of 1948, to which Iran has been a party since 1949.
On the basis of the foregoing documented practice of the Islamic Republic in applying the death sentence to activists inside Iran who have the same political profile as Mr. Ashrafi, there is no question that Mr. Ashrafi will be subject to execution if deported to Iran. Thus, deporting Mr. Ashrafi to Iran is tantamount to an execution sentence – linked to the practice of genocide – implemented by the government of Sweden. Execution, no less genocide, is illegal under Swedish law.
3- The Islamic Republic considers all Iranian political asylum-seekers to be criminals, deeming their quest for asylum as propagating against the regime. The Islamic Republic has on several occasions declared and applied its intent to prosecute returned political asylum-seekers, on the basis of Article 7 of the Islamic Republic’s Penal Code. The regime’s Chief Prosecutor, Mohsen Eje’i, has supported arguments articulated by retired judge and lawyer Abdoulnabi Molahzadeh, who stated on February 17, 2011 that anyone who has filed a political refugee case is considered a person engaged in propaganda against the Islamic regime and therefore criminal and subject to prosecution under Article 7.
One recent example of the application of Article 7 by the regime against a returned asylum-seeker is the case of Rahim Rostami, a teen-aged refugee also from Kurdistan who was extradited from Norway to Iran on February 9th 2011. He was recently released on bail from Evin Prison (which houses primarily political prisoners), and must stand trial in court on charges that include application for political asylum and participation in protests outside of Iran. The situation facing Rahim Rostami is a case study of what will happen to Sanan Ashrafi if he is returned to Iran.
4- Sanan Ashrafi’s political activism and the Islamic Republic’s consequent torture and persecution of Mr. Ashrafi are well-documented and supported by witnesses including his political party, the Worker-communist Party of Iran – Hekmatist. However, even if one were to leave aside Mr. Ashrafi’s political opposition activities inside Iran, his right to asylum and protection is still solidly grounded in international law on the basis of his fully documented political activities against the Islamic Republic during the time of his residence in Sweden. Under the concept of “sur place,” Paragraph 96 of the rights of asylum-seekers under the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees clearly states that people have the right to asylum on the basis of political activities they have engaged in abroad. Sanan Ashrafi has been publicly, documentably active against the Islamic Republic during his time in Sweden. Numerous photographs of his political activism against the Islamic regime have been disseminated via the internet, and he has been interviewed on television programs such as Rahaye-Zan, which are transmitted via satellite to its audience in Iran.
The Islamic Republic is assuredly aware of Mr. Ashrafi’s political activism both inside and outside of Iran.
Sweden’s Record of Violation of Refugee Rights
On September 3, 2010, in the case of R. c. v. Sweden (application no. 41827/07), the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg found that deporting an Iranian dissident to Iran would be a violation by the Swedish authorities of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
Yet despite this finding, the Swedish government continues to illegally attempt to deport Iranian activists like Sanan Ashrafi, Marzieh Kamangar, and others, who are clearly and undeniably at risk not only of detention and torture by the Islamic Republic of Iran, but at unquestionable risk of execution.
We demand an urgent, immediate halt to Sweden’s intended illegal refoulement of Sanan Ashrafi, who is at clear risk of execution if returned to the Islamic Republic. Given the the Migration Office’s blatant, repeated violations of international law regarding refugee rights, risking the lives of Iranian and other asylum-seekers, we demand that Sweden must not only immediately halt the illegal deportation of Sanan Ashrafi, but must immediately cease all deportations to Iran.
The government of Sweden cannot deny the illegality of the deportation of Sanan Ashrafi to Iran. If the Swedish right-wing coalition government does not cease and desist with its efforts to deport Sanan Ashrafi and all other Iranian opposition activists, it can expect not only to see protest demonstrations in front of its Embassies worldwide, but to be sued in the European Court of Human Rights.
on behalf of
Mission Free Iran
International Coalition for the Rights of Iranian Refugees