Iran Shuts Down Human Rights Group

Leily Lankarani is CBS News' Tehran producer.

The Iranian authorities raided and shut down the offices of a human rights organization in Tehran on Sunday.

(Defenders of Human Rights Center)
Defenders of Human Rights Center (their logo pictured at left) had invited 300 guests, including students, ethnic minorities and women's rights activists to celebrate the 60 anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

(There's no link to DHRC because the launch of their new Web site has been postponed.)

A few hours before the program was due to begin police and security forces were present outside the Center's building, videotaping the guests and preventing them from attending the meeting.

DHRC was founded by Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi (seen at left) and a number of other human rights activists to defend political prisoners in Iran, support their families and document human rights abuses.

Narges Mohammadi, the spokesperson for the center, told reporters that upon asking for a search warrant she was insulted by security forces. While Mohammadi and Ebadi were in the building the government agents entered and filmed the premises, made an inventory, forced members out of the center and locked all the entrances.

The government reportedly accused the DHRC of illegal operations which created anti-government propaganda in the media.

Iranian news agencies said the authorities used clause 10 of the Interior Ministry Political Parties Committee to shut down DHRC.

Clause 10 says a committee of five representatives from the offices of the Attorney General, High Council of the Judiciary, Interior Ministry and two individuals chosen by Parliament should authorize the foundation of any political parties, groups, unions, or Islamic or other religious associations.

Under the law, after the committee authorizes the founding of any such group, they then supervise and control the group's activities.