Reuters: The French presidency of the European Union condemned Iran on Monday for closing the offices of a human rights watchdog group led by Iran's Nobel peace prize winner Shirin Ebadi and called on Tehran to reopen it.
PARIS, Dec 22 (Reuters) – The French presidency of the European Union condemned Iran on Monday for closing the offices of a human rights watchdog group led by Iran's Nobel peace prize winner Shirin Ebadi and called on Tehran to reopen it.
Iranian police raided and closed the Human Rights Defenders Centre on Sunday, shortly before the group was due to hold a celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which fell on Dec. 10.
"The presidency of the European Union Council condemns most firmly and vigorously the closing by Iranian police of the offices of the Human Rights Defenders Centre," French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said in a statement.
"The presidency of the European Union Council calls on the Iranian authorities to honour their international commitments in terms of human rights."
Kouchner called on Iran to reopen the centre and "give it the legal status it has been requesting for many years".
In Washington, White House spokesman Tony Fratto said he was troubled by the reports that the centre had been closed.
"It's troubling. We believe that these individuals are incredibly courageous to stand up in a society like Iran for the rights of their fellow citizens. So it's something that we're obviously paying attention to," Fratto said.
Ebadi, winner of the 2003 Nobel peace prize, has repeatedly criticised Iran's human rights record, citing what she says is a rising number of political prisoners and the highest number of executions per capita in the world last year.
Ebadi's advocacy of human rights has earned her a spell in jail and a stream of threatening letters and telephone calls.
Iran's government rejects accusations that it violates human rights and accuses its Western foes of hypocrisy and double standards on the issue. (Reporting by Francois Murphy; editing by Elizabeth Piper)