March 21, 2010: Joanne Michele’s Statement at Japanese Embassy in Support of Jamal Saberi

Joanne speaking in support of Saberi and all threatened refugees
photo courtesy of MrZand

According to the UNHCR for the year ending-2008 the total population of concern originating from Iran was 80,316, based on unreliable government data. The numbers from 2009 and 2010 are likely to be much higher.

Those of us who today stand free are here to lend our voices to Jamal Saberi, facing deportation to Iran after 18 years as a refugee in Japan. For him and countless others, we express our outrage and demand their safety and freedom.
Iran continues to vehemently defy international law and United Nations conventions, and by deporting Jamal Saberi, Japan is directly assisting the Iranian government in violating internationally recognized human rights. The arrest and threat of deportation come only weeks after Ali Larijani, Iran’s Majilis (Parliament) Speaker made his first trip to Japan.

By ignoring the Islamic Republic’s rape, torture, and execution of political dissidents and ordinary peaceful citizens, world leaders will send a message to Iran that we will turn our heads and quietly allow you to persecute your people. Furthermore, Turkey and Japan, we will allow you to help. How lovely the world is when we all work together. [sarcastic]

In early July 2009, as Tehran was being swarmed in green, Japan passed an amendment to the Immigration Control and
Refugee Recognition Act and the Special Act on Immigration Control. This internal law has two important ramifications for refugees:

Point 6: Clear wording of the prohibition of deportation under conventions including the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

Point 7: Establishment of a special exception on the period of stay for those who have filed applications such as for extension of the period of stay

I recognize faces here of people I spend a considerable amount of time talking to. And I realized that a lot of our conversations are very angry. We spend a lot of time being angry with the Iran and frustrated at the international community’s lack of response. I am grateful, however, that we funnel that energy into trying to change that which is so wrong.

It’s time for that passion to spread. Silence in this case sets a dangerous precedent. According to a 2007 report presented at the 8th Asia Pacific Migration Research Network Conference, held by UNESCO, 95% of Iranians in Japan are eventually deported.

Effective 15 July 2009, Section 6 of Japan’s Immigration Amendment states, “It is stipulated that the destination of deportation shall not include the countries as prescribed in Article 3, paragraph(1) of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, when any person subject to deportation shall be deported to a country.”

The Article in question is from the 1984 United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, to which Japan is a signatory.

Article 3 of that document has two very clear points:

1. No State Party shall expel, return (“refouler”) or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture.

This principle of non-refoulement is the international standard against deportation. Japan’s 2009 amendment is an internal commitment to upholding this principle, which it is now disregarding. Japan has not only approved Iran’s violating international law, it is now a participant.

The second part of Article 3 of the Convention Against Torture clears any lingering questions about Japan’s responsibility to Jamal Saberi:

2. For the purpose of determining whether there are such grounds, the competent authorities shall take into account all relevant considerations including, where applicable, the existence in the State concerned [Iran] of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights.

Gross, flagrant, and mass violations.

Just this week, the group Human Rights Activists in Iran, or HRA Iran, cited 59,040 human rights violations in the Islamic Republic of Iran between March 2009 and March 2010. For their efforts, 30 members of HRA Iran were tortured by IRGC officials for access to their web information.

Reporters Without Borders lists the number of detained journalists and “netizens” in detention at 65, an unprecedented number since the organization began documenting violations against freedom of the press.

Despite Iran being a signatory of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Iran is number one in states who routinely and systematically execute children. According to Amnesty International, Iran accounted for 73% of child executions between 2004 and 2008 [http://www.iranhumanrights.org/2008/06/juvexecutions/], despite Article 37(a) of the Convention, which expressly prohibits executing a person for a crime committed as a juvenile.

Japan is also a signatory to the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and must honor the prohibition against non-refoulement, which prohibits returning a refugee to their home country if they face persecution or harm. As a political activist, Mr. Saberi has an established fear of persecution upon his return to Iran.

It is bad enough to allow the Islamic Republic to get away with massive human rights violations. It is no secret that world leaders are seemingly unwilling to take a strong stance on human rights while the military industrial-driven nuclear weapon farce prevails. But just as Dutch Royal Shell was able to violate sanctions by working through proxy companies, allowing Japan to deport a political activist to Iran to face certain violence is condoning the regime’s horrific practices.

If Mr. Saberi is returned to certain torture – and in the worst case, death – Japan and Iran will not be solely responsible. It is the duty of the United Nations and world leaders to set the correct precedent and force Japan to comply with international laws to which it has committed itself. Failure to do so is condoning Iran’s human rights violations and sends a message to Turkey and other nations that human lives will be overlooked.

My anger is grounded; if Japan is willing to deport Mr. Saberi, it is willing to concede his life for relations with Iran. This case and the horrors occurring in Turkey send the message that appeasement is valued over human lives.
Most importantly, we cannot forget this is a human life.

As with all of our brothers and sisters in Iran, in Turkey, and throughout the world, we tell Mr. Saberi that we stand together.
How isolating it must be to be so uncertain of your fate.

I cannot imagine having the value of my life decided by men in courts who make backhanded deals with dictators.

Though you may think this to be out of your hands, Mr. Saberi, you have love and support 6,791 miles away, and we will fight beside you.

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