The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is deeply concerned by the recent sentencing of environmentalists to lengthy jail terms for espionage-related crimes in the Republic of Iran.
The detainees, who were devoted to conserving their country’s wildlife, have already languished in jail for almost two years and we had earlier received troubling information on lack of adequate access to legal counsel and representation. We have conveyed our concerns to relevant authorities in Tehran in the past.
Wildlife conservation and environmental protection should not be considered a crime and indeed it is recognized as a public duty in the Islamic Constitution of the Republic of Iran (Article 50). It is deeply concerning that authorities have at times responded to legitimate conservation efforts of environmentalists by criminalizing their actions.
UNEP can confirm that Ms. Niloufar Bayani, one of the conservationists sentenced, worked as a consultant to UNEP between 2012 and 2017. Based out of our Geneva office, Niloufar was a much-valued colleague, deeply committed to supporting communities recovering from the environmental consequences in the aftermath of disasters. Towards this end, Niloufar’s work took her to a number of countries including Haiti, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sri Lanka and the Ivory Coast.
At a time when we face serious environmental challenges, the work of environmentalists and conservationists has never been more critical for our collective future. This work is grounded in international environmental law and the United Nations’ normative framework of international human rights standards and the rule of law. We now call for clemency and urge the Iranian authorities to review and overturn these sentences.