Asylum News: Amnesty Does U-Turn On Yadegary Case – Cosgrove Informed Of New Info
By Selwyn Manning – Scoop Co-Editor.
Amnesty International has conducted a U-Turn on the Thomas Yadegary asylum-seeker case after discovering new information suggesting that if New Zealand deports the man, it will be in breach of its international human rights obligations.
Amnesty had said two weeks ago that it believed Mr Yadegary would be safe should he be deported back to Iran – despite him having converted to Christianity some years ago and evidence that those who had coverted from Islam to Christianity were victimised in Iran.
Amnesty has now changed its position and advises that it is unsafe for New Zealand to deport Mr Yadegary to Iran.
Amnesty International's Margaret Taylor informed Ryken and Associates' senior solicitor, Isabel Chorao (Yadegary's lawyer) by way of letter last Thursday (October 26), stating: "I wish to now advise of an update I have received today from amnesty International's Iran research team, International Secretariate, London, with regard returns of Christian converts to Iran.
"… our current position is to oppose the return of proven converts as any such return would be unsafe. With the Refugee Status Appeals Authority (RSAA) decision, which declined Mr Yadegary's refugee status, it acknowledged the genuineness of his conversion to Catholicism.
"Amnesty International believes it is not now safe for Mr Yadegary to be returned to Iran, and any such return would see New Zealand in breach of its international human rights obligations."
The letter goes on to cite a number of cases of recent incidents where converts to Christianity have been victimised in Iran and includes a concerning statement by Iran's secretary general of the Council of Guardians, Ayatollah Jannati, who said: "Human beings, apart from Muslims, are animals who roam the earth and engage in corruption."
Yadegary's lawyer followed on Friday (October 27) with a faxed letter to Associate Immigration Minister, Clayton Cosgrove, informing him that Amnesty had changed its position and issuing him a copy of the Amnesty letter. Isabel Chorao wrote: "The author of the letter, Ms Margaret Taylor, was recently seen on TV advocating the view that Christian converts were not in danger of being persecuted in Iran.
"After consulting her colleagues in various overseas missions, she has now advised that in fact recent country information suggests very strongly that Christian converts are in danger of being persecuted in Iran," Isabel Chorao wrote.
She added that since recent election of President Ahmadinejad the persecution of religious minorities in Iran had intensified. Amnesty's initial position on this case was based on out-of-date information.
The claims are supported by United States' state department information that raises concerns of abuses, violence, and victimisation against Islamists who have converted to Christianity and other faiths.
The U.S. state department 2006 report states: " There was a further deterioration of the extremely poor status of respect for religious freedom during the reporting period, most notably for Baha'is and Sufi Muslims. The country's religious minorities include Sunni and Sufi Muslims, Baha'is, Zoroastrians, Jews, and Christians. There were reports of imprisonment, harassment, intimidation, and discrimination based on religious beliefs."
And added: "In March 2006 the U.N. General Assembly adopted Resolution 60/171 expressing serious concern about the continued discrimination and human rights violations against religious minorities by the Government."
This fact is at odds to what Clayton Cosgrove told The House this month when asked why Immigration Minister David Cunliffe had lobbied for Mr Yadegary's release while an MP but had supported his deportation on becoming the minister. Mr Cosgrove said: "New Zealand relies on advice from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in respect of the appropriateness of repatriating foreign nationals to countries. There has been no advice from that organisation indicating repatriation to Iran is inappropriate ... He has legally exercised his rights. He's failed. If he chooses to remain, then he has to choose to remain in custody."
But as the United States report acknowledged that there were no reported cases of the death penalty being applied in Iran for apostasy during the reporting period, it detailed how on November 22, 2005, unidentified persons killed a man who had converted to Christianity more than ten years earlier: "He had allegedly received death threats over the past few years. Reportedly, his death was followed by repression of and threats against other Christians, including arrests of ten Christians," the US state department report stated.
A spokesperson for Clayton Cosgrove said the minister does not comment on individual cases, but confirmed she would issue a copy of this Scoop report for his attention.