Release the imprisoned Iranian trade union activists

The Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Carl Bildt, is on a visit to Iran today. Mr Bildt hopes to be able to start a dialogue on human rights when meeting the Iranian leadership. This is not a day too soon. LO urges the Foreign Minister to devote particular focus to human rights in these discussions.


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Guaranteeing the respect of human rights and of personal freedom is a crucial precondition for the integration of Iran into the international context. Regrettably, the situation in Iran is completely different today.  Violations of human rights are committed daily, virtually by routine, with the active support of the regime.

The 2013 International Labour Conference noted that Iran is one of the countries in which living conditions, personal freedom and trade union activities are severely hampered. Swedish and international trade union organisations have in recurrent statements protested against the brutal harassment of union activists in Iran and criticised the fact that Iran – albeit a member of the ILO - has not ratified the Conventions on Freedom of Association and the Right to Organise, on Right to Collective Bargaining and on Minimum Age.

Besides harassment, dismissals and imprisonment, the union activists in Iran, when exposed to interrogation by various security authorities or when arrested by court order, are also forced to give up their union membership in the free and independent trade unions.  Even so, for many union activists this nevertheless tragically results in their being sentenced to prison on vague grounds.

The reports that the imprisoned union activists have been able to send out from prison bear witness to unbearable conditions in the prisons.  Violence and torture are frequent during interrogation, but also in daily life in the overcrowded spaces.  Furthermore, there is a lack of access to health care and medicine.  The physical and psychological state of those imprisoned deteriorates quickly and those seriously ill are denied medical care and permission to leave prison for hospitalisation. On several occasions, prisoners have died under unclear circumstances and the reports on the cause of death have been deficient. In light of the above, LO suggests that an international trade union truth commission be set up, in order to examine the situation in the regime’s prisons and to investigate the deaths that have occurred.

LO notes with regret that in recent years the situation for trade unionists in Iran has steadily deteriorated. Iran's intentions to develop relations with the outside world and to stand out as a modern country have not resulted in any change for trade unionists. LO condemns the Iranian regime's inhumane treatment of its people and urges President Hassan Rohani to show decisiveness and respect for human rights by immediately releasing the union activists who are currently in prison, and to take measures to eliminate threats, harassment and persecution of trade unionists in Iran as well as to ensure that ILO Conventions are respected. Furthermore, the social and economic situation of the families of the imprisoned and persecuted union activists must be investigated and support must be offered to the victims of the regime's extrajudicial actions.

According to LO, there are no grounds whatsoever to welcome Iran into any international context, within which the country belongs in the view of President Hassan Rohani, before the above glaring violations of human rights in Iran are stopped, and abuse, extrajudicial imprisonments and deaths in prison finally investigated and compensation awarded. Without any tangible progress on democracy and human rights in Iran, LO and the international trade union movement will continue to regard the country as a dysfunctional, repressive state.

Karl-Petter Thorwaldsson, President, LO

Loa Brynjulfsdottir,   Head of International Departmen, LO

Lars Lindgren, President, Swedish Transport Workers' Union