Plenary speech on human rights in Iran, in particular the cases of Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani and of Zahra Bahrami

Marietje Schaake, on behalf of the ALDE Group – Madam President, as Europeans, we are particularly moved by the human rights situation in Iran, not only because we consider the EU to be a community of values and believe in a world without the death penalty, but also because today, we are all too aware of the individuals behind the numbers. At least 388 people were executed in Iran in 2009 alone. These individual deaths are meant to deter a generation in their calls for freedom, but in fact, they inspire a multitude more. In recent weeks, a lively discussion about human rights in Iran erupted in the Netherlands when a Dutch-Iranian citizen was imprisoned. The Iranian Government does not recognise the Dutch citizenship of dual nationals. Therefore, Dutch diplomats have not been able to speak with this person, and neither have her lawyers. The Dutch Government engages with citizens in prisons all over the world regardless of their cases. It is a constitutional obligation to provide for the well-being of its citizens. This issue matters to all Member States and should be addressed EU-wide in relation to Iran, giving human rights a more prominent position on our agenda. Today, we are talking about people – women and individuals – whose lives are effectively over, even if they are still alive. Zahra and Sakineh are no exception to the thousands of prisoners in Iran who are less known and who may feel as though their voices are not heard. The Iranian Government should realise that tough language, military technology or resilience in times of sanctions will not end the country’s self-isolation or move it forward. Rather, the legitimacy derived from providing for the well-being of citizens earns respect and credibility in the international community. Justice and security are actually two sides of the same coin. There cannot be impunity for people who hang children, who systematically censor and rape, and who stone women. When addressing Iran, let us revive the human rights dialogue so that the EU sends a strong signal, besides that of the euro and of sanctions, and engages Iran on its most sensitive and our most fundamental point – human rights and fundamental freedoms – and attaches consequences to their abuse.