Lawyer of Norwegian Asylum-Seeker Extradited to Iran Speaks Out
June 27, 2011
Dramatic turn in the Rahim Rostami case
* There is no doubt that the death sentence against Rostami Rahim is real, says his Norwegian lawyer, Cecilie Schjatvet. The UN High Commisioner for Refugees is currently updated on the situation of the 20-year old, who allegedly has been exposed to torture. The case has received international attention.
* The Norwegian political party Venstre says that the government has a joint responsibility for the fate of the young Kurd and demands a full stop in the forced return to Iran. Venstre no longer «confides in» the asylum policy of the Norwegian government.
By CARIMA TIRILLSDOTTIR HEINESEN
June 24, 2011
On June 20, the global day of refugees, it was announced that Rahim Rostami, who is known from the TV-programme Brennpunkt (“Focus”), has been charged in Iran.
After spending time in the notorious Evin-prison north of Tehran, since he was expelled by force from Gardermoen on February 10, guarded by two police officers, the Kurd will soon stand trial.
Now, his Norwegian lawyer is coming with a strong criticism of Utlendingsnemnda (The immigration authorities)(UNE), who refused to believe in the asylum application of Rostami. The lawyer is the well-known Cecilie Schjatvet of Hestenes og Dramer & co. Schjatvet, who is represented in the legal panel on asylum- and foreigner law of Advokatforeningen (The Association of Lawyers), has been working on the Rostami-case since she took it on at the turn of the month between March and April.
The Norwegian authorities rejected the documents which the single and minor asylum seeker Rostami presented when he applied for asylum as a 17-year old in 2008. He exhibited papers showing that he had received a death sentence in his home town in Western Iran, something which neither UDI nor UNE has confided in.
The last weeks UNE has also raised doubts about whether Rostami really has been imprisoned in Iran since the forced return. But his Norwegian lawyer says now:
– There is no doubt that the indictment and the death sentence of Rahim Rostami is real, and that the return of him to Iran, has put his life in danger.
Used against the Swedish government
At the same time, it appears that the fate of the 20-year old Kurd, who was known from TV when he lived at Senjehesten asylum centre in the county of Troms, now receives international attention. On June 22 «The International Coalition for the Rights of Iranian Refugees» sent an open letter to the Swedish Minister for asylum cases, Tobias Billström, asking to stop the return of Iranian opposition member, Sanan Asrafi, on July 1.
In the letter, they point to the fate of the imprisoned Rostami as an argument for Sweden to stop the return to Iran. The Iranian regime has not made official the charge against Rostami yet, but «The International Coalition for the Rights of Iranian Refugees» writes that he, among other things, «has to meet in court charged of seeking political asylum and participating in protests outside Iran. The situation Rahim Rostami is confronted with, is a study in what will happen with Sanan Ashrafi if he is being returned to Iran».
In the letter, it is pointed out that Rostami among other things is charged according to paragraph 7 of the Iranian Criminal Code, which hits those who are being charged of propaganda against Iran. During the last months, the Chief Prosecutor of the regime, Mohsen Eje’i, has supported the argment that returned asylum seekers can be charged on such basis in general.
Since April 2, Rostami has been entered on the unofficial list over the 2800 political prisoners in Iran, as the only one from Norway and the Nordic countries. In his entry it says that he was refused bail on March 23. Bail was granted on June 20, but according to the information Ny Tid has receieved, the bail is set to the astronomic sum of 1 billion toman, or 700.000 Norwegian Kroner (approx. 128.000 US dollars or more than 90.000 Euros)
Lønseth points to UNE
– The Rahim Rostami case is proof that all of the methods the Norwegian authorities have used in this case, to evaluate whether a person has a need for protection or not, are unfit, Schjatvet claims in a written statement to Ny Tid.
She also thinks that the Norwegian authorities now has a responsibility and duty to help Rostami.
– Although Rostami has been sent out of the country, Norway has a clear joint responsibility. Norwegian authorities should follow international law, which says that they do have a duty to help to solve the situation, she states.
For the time being, the government is silent and points to Utlendingsnemnda:
– These are accusations against UNE specifically tied up to a single case. UNE should be given the opportuniy to respond. The Ministry of Justice does not consider single cases, Pål Lønseth, a State Secretary from the Ministry of Justice, says to Ny Tid on Thursday evening.
UN is currently kept updated
It appears now that the UN High Commisioner of Refugees is being currently updated on Rostami’s fate. Nå viser det seg at FNs Høykommissær for flyktninger følger løpende med i Rostamis skjebne. The regional office of UNHCR in Stockholm, asked UNE to send all the Rostami-papers already on April 4, one and a half week after Ny Tid mentioned the case the first time. Now, the office is able to tell:
– We know the case well and are being currently updated by Rostami’s lawyer in Oslo. If the case should develop in such a direction that there is a need to advice Norwegian authorities, we will do this, the spokesperson of the High Commisioner, Hanne Mathisen, says to Ny Tid.
Schjatvet, who sees more problems which the Rostami-case, uncovers:
– The basic error the authorities makes in their treatment of many of the most difficult cases, those which is rotating within the system and where the applicant can return after deportation, is that they speculate around the information given in the asylum application. To speculate around facts, is unprofessional because it is not suited to uncover needs for protection, she says.
The lawyer also reacts to how UNE on April 19, just before the Easter holiday, published a press release about the case, with a lot of allegations around the Rostami-case:
– In this case UNE has in addition to this, behaved irresponsiby also after the deportation, which ended with imprisonment and torture. In the press release of April 19, it is being referred from the asylum application at a point when UNE at the same time claims that they have no reason to doubt that he is in the Evin prison. To confirm in such a manner from official sources, the content of an asylum application of a person who is in a precarious situation, is beyond all justifiable behaviour. UNE should avoid such things and they should attempt to achieve a more mature public behaviour, Schjatvet states.
For this first net version, Ny Tid did not succeed in getting any comment to the statements from UNE. But on Tuesday, UNE’s public relations officer sent the following mail to Ny Tid:
– We find that the assertions about what he is risking and why, has been considerably changed since the case first was mentioned by Ny Tid, when it was alleged that he was already sentenced to death by stoning in his home town. UNE is preoccupied with what is the actual facts of the case and is therefore looking to have also the latest information confirmed. Aside from that we have no further comments from those we gave in the middle of April. Then we said that there had no information in the case stating that Rostami had been politically active in Norway, and that, if this had been the case, neither he himself nor any of his representatives, had informed UNE about this, says Bjørn Lyster, UNE’s public relations officer.
The vice-chairman of the political party Venstre, Helge Solum Larsen, reacts strongly to what has appeared now with the statements of Schjatvets, published on the web pages of Ny Tid, on June 24.
– Development in the case is dramatic and I hope Norway now will do what is possible to prevent an even worse development. It gives a very strong signal when the lawyer states: “The Rahim-case is proof of that all of the methods the Norwegian authorities have used in this case, to evaluate whether a person has a need for protection or not, are unfit» The acknowledgment of the highly negative situation in Iran, which has deteriorated strongly after the wish of political reforms was struck down, should have reached the Norwegian government a long time ago. If they claim that they do not know this, the government does not pay much attention. If they acknowledge that the situation of human rights has become even worse, they carry a joint responsibility for what individuals like Rahim Rostami experience after the forced return from Norway, Solum Larsen says.
The vice-chairman also asks for the forced returns to Iran to be stopped. Norwegian authorities shall have sent out around 20 asylum seekers to the Iranian regime this far in 2011.
– Forced returns to Iran should not take place at all, the way the situation in the country is.
The Norwegian government has the responsibility of an instrumental asylum policy. I am constantly surprised that the political parties of AP, SV and Sp let their own government keep on like this, and that these parties, which constitute the parliamentary foundation for the government, maintain their support for this policy. I have no confidence in the policy of the governmet in this area. The key for change in the direction of a more human policy, where we listen to UN and others to a greater extent, lies with the parties of the government themselves. They carry the responsibility, says Helge Solum Larsen.
Translated by Wilfred Hildonen, Norway.
Synne Skouen – Composer and writer.
Indicted in Iran. Now all bets are off, as Iranian authorities officialy has brought charges against the boy whom Utlendingsnemda (Immigration Appeals Board (UNE)) decided was OK to send “home”.
NO “DEATH SENTENCE from Norway” replied UNE-Director Terje Skjeggestad just ahead of easter, to my claim that Rahim Rostami was in danger of death after the Norwegian Police had handed him over to the Iranian authorities for immediate imprisonment.
Well, he was also vaguely spreading doubt regarding if the boy was imprisoned or not, despite of that he also argued that the prison conditions were better than alleged. In the entry, almost identical to a press release aimed against NY Tids’s coverage of the case, he astonishingly use Iranian authorities as witness of truth regarding if Iran would prosecute persons who have applied for asylum in a foreign country or not. He carried on: “UNE did not find any evidence of returnees beeing indicted or convicted on these grounds”.
Well, He – and we – have now got an evidence of this. Iranian authorities has not made the content of the indictment against Rahim Rostami publicly accessible yet, but The International Coalition for the Rights of Iranian Refugees (ICRIR) argues that he has to appear in court accused of having applied for political asylum, and participating in protests abroad. Skjeggestads reliance on Iranian courts stands both in relief to the country’s paragraph in the criminal law regarding propaganda against Iran, and to Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi’s statements about the systematic executions of political prisoners in Iran.
It goes with the the story that Rahim came to Norway as a 17-year-old. Even then with a death sentence in absentia his luggage, supposedly of a criminal act; a death sentence UNE chosed to ignore.
– There is no doubt that the indictment and death sentence is real, and the return to Iran has put his life in danger, his lawyer Cecilie Schjatvet said to Ny Tid recently. Schjatvet is a widely known lawyer. She is a member of the Bar Association committee for the asylum and immigration law. Furthermore, she says that the Rahim case is a proof of; “that all the methods the Norwegian immigration authorities used to consider whether a person has a need for protection or not, is inappropriate in this case”.
It’s tough talk. The question is; what the Norwegian authorities will do now, and we don’t want more of UNE’s misdirections, there is no time for that. We neither want apologies. There is not time for that either. Not now. But in the aftermath of this case several will sure enought dispute how this could happen; that a committee Chairman, on his own, could make such an unfortunate decision that had such an impact on a young man.
WHERE IS STORBERGET?
But foremost the political leadeship must put this on their agenda! Don’t hide behind administrative policies! Where are you, Minister of Justice; Knut Storberget? We want you to drop everything else and do what Norwegian authorities, cf. the lawyer Schjatvet, is committed to by international law, namely “to alleviate the situation”.
This is what you have to find out now, as fast as possible!
Translated by Iver Neumann Korsgaard, Norway
Courtesy of Aftenposten, Norway
Norwegian version: http://www.aftenposten.no/meninger/spaltister/skouen/article4158367.ece
Translation of: http://www.aftenposten.no/meninger/spaltister/skouen/article4158367.ece Hva gjør de nå? – Meninger – Skouen – Aftenposten.no