11 July 2014 – The ITF (International Transport Workers’ Federation) has demanded the release of Reza Shahabi, the imprisoned Iranian trade unionist and prisoner of conscience. Shahabi, who is the treasurer of the ITF member union the Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company (otherwise known as the Vahed union), was unjustly arrested in 2010 and is now on a hunger strike.
In a strongly worded letter sent today to Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, the ITF’s acting general secretary, Steve Cotton, stated:
‘The ITF has written to your government on a number of occasions to demand Shahabi’s release and to ensure that he is provided with the medical treatment he needs. The Federation also on several occasions reminded you of your country’s international legal obligations to comply with international human rights and labour standards, and in particular on the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining.
‘Indeed, this obligation has been re-affirmed by the ILO in their report to the March 2014 meeting of the Governing Body which states that:
“As regards the situation of Mr Shahabi, the Government indicates that it genuinely continues its constructive attempts to seek his parole and pardon through legal channels. The Government recalls that, when meeting with the Director of the International Labour Standards Department of the ILO, on 17 April 2012, the Minister of Cooperatives, Labour and Social Welfare had reaffirmed the Government’s inclination for the immediate freedom of Mr Shahabi; he had instructed his Deputy for International Affairs to closely follow this case. In relation to the accusation of maltreatment of Mr Shahabi, the Government states that any alleged mistreatment of suspects and arrested people, irrespective of the charges against them, shall be subject to appropriate legal prosecuting and that perpetrators thereof would be sued and duly punished if found guilty of the attributed maltreatments and neglects charges; in this respect, Mr Shahabi has the power to exercise his constitutional and legal rights toward reclamation of his rights, if he so decides.
‘In regard to the allegations of negligence and carelessness in addressing the immediate medical needs of Mr Reza Shahabi during his prison term, the Government indicates that the Department of Prisons, Correctional and Rehabilitation Services is responsible for the safety, security and health of prisoners, and that different articles of the Executive Standing Order of the said department legally requires it to constantly supervise the public and individual situation of the prison inmates and address their needs immediately. Paragraph 1 of Article 44 of the Standing Order requires the prison ombudsperson to closely monitor any infringement of the legitimate rights of the prisoners. The Government states that, realizing the importance of providing a detailed account of Mr Shahabi’s medical treatment, it will undertake to provide the Committee with a detailed report on his medical treatment. The Government indicates that he has already been in hospital for bone spurs’ treatment.”
Despite the statements by the Government, and repeated commitments for proper treatment, these promises continue regularly to be broken. Furthermore, Shahabi was recently transferred from Section 350 of Evin prison in Tehran to Raja’i Shahr prison, in the city of Karaj. In protest at this transfer- to a prison where political prisoners and violent criminals are held together – it is reported that Shahabi started a hunger strike.
Given the developments with Shahabi’s health and the deterioration of the situation, the Government has little choice but to act now. The ITF once again forcefully repeats its position that no worker be imprisoned for his/her trade union activities, much less be treated in a way which amounts to deliberate torture. ITF affiliated members are urgently demanding that Shahabi is released immediately and unconditionally from prison. Pending his release, the Federation also demands that ShahAbi’s physical integrity and safety are fully respected.
The ITF will continue to monitor the development of the situation carefully. The ITF and ITUC have already written to the ILO, which has indicated that it supports the demand for the unconditional release of Shahabi and the provision of appropriate and necessary medical treatment.
The Federation continues to support its affiliate and worldwide, its members will not hesitate to demonstrate their solidarity, should this be necessary.’
The ITF has also launched a LabourStart appeal which asks people to send messages of protest at Shahabi’s detention to the Iranian president. This is at www.labourstart.org/go/freereza and attracted 1, 000 signatures in its first two hours.
Amnesty International recogniseS Reza Shahabi as a prisoner of conscience. See: