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Amnestys on Returning Christian Converts To Iran

Amnesty International's Position On Returning Proven Christian Converts To Iran

Amnesty International opposes the return of proven Christian converts to Iran as any such return would be unsafe.

Any such return of proven Christian converts to Iran could see New Zealand in breach of its international human rights obligations as such converts face the risk of torture and ill-treatment.

There has been recent media comment that Christian converts could face the death penalty if returned to Iran. The risk of a death sentence is however likely to be low but other risks, such as torture, remain high.

"Although there has been no known use of the death penalty in Iran, for 'apostasy' or conversion for more than 10 years, converts could face attack by civilian groups, fabricated charges, a ban on employment, detention and torture," says AINZ's Refugee Co-ordinator Margaret Taylor. "We are therefore calling for proven Christian converts to be offered a complementary form of protection until such time as it is safe for a return home."

Amnesty International is constantly assessing the human rights situation in Iran and has documented a deterioration in human rights during 2007.

Since President Ahmadinejad's election, members of Iran's religious minorities have been killed, detained or harassed solely in connection with their faith. Even the recognized religious minorities of Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians face discrimination in law and practice with respect to employment, marriage, and criminal sanctions. Harassment faced by converts, that Amnesty International has documented, can and does range from:

  • a ban on state or parastatal employment under Gozinesh rules.

  • questioning about one's conversion, which could be accompanied by a ban on attending church services.

  • possibility of attack by civilian groups such as Hezbollah if a convert comes to their notice in any way.

In a letter to the Minister of Immigration, David Cunliffe, dated 20 September 2007 Amnesty International sought clarity about the nature of negotiations with Iranian officials in regard to Ali Panah, also widely reported in the media.
"We advised that Christian converts are more at risk when they come to the attention of Iranian officials and queried what assurances had been sought or given with regard the safety on return of those impacted by these negotiations," says Ms Taylor. "To date no reply has been received from the Minister's office."

Amnesty International notes that the Anglican Church here in New Zealand and Mr Panah's pastor Rev. Clive Sperring have supported the integrity of Ali Panah's conversion.

ENDS

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