Kylie Moore-Gilbert, Australian-British academic who was just freed after two years in Iranian prison as a victim of hostage diplomacy, addressed the 13th Annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracysee quotes below, followed by full prepared remarks.

For links to other speakers’ quotes, videos, livestream, and more, click here.

13th Annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy, Monday, June 8, 2021

On justice in Iran:

“In Iran today, justice itself has been warped to serve the interests of an elite few, whose primary goal is instrumentalizing the judiciary to hold onto power, rather than using it to uphold the rights and obligations of its citizens.” 

“Without first fixing its broken justice system, Iran doesn’t have a hope in hell of improving its horrific record on human rights.” 

“The corrupt practices of Iran’s justice system also contradict the very Islamic values which the regime claims to uphold.” 

On being in prison in Iran and false confessions:

“I was subjected to the psychological torture of solitary confinement, a method of detention designed to pressure me into making a false confession.”

“The Iranian judiciary accepts false confessions made under conditions of physical and psychological torture as evidence in court, and even uses such confessions as grounds for capital punishment.” 

“Whilst I did not make a false confession, I know many who have.” 

On practice of arbitrary detention in Iran:

“Iran’s prisons are crowded with regular people who have been arbitrarily scooped up and incarcerated due to amateurish intelligence-gathering by brainwashed and paranoid security operatives.” 

“During the [November 2019] protests…Evin prison was packed to the rafters with everyday people who had been picked up off the streets and thrown into prison, seemingly at random.”

“Their incarceration was designed to serve as a warning and a deterrent to others who might consider taking to the streets.” 

“I have also encountered people in prison whose presence there is solely due to ‘payback.’… to get their hands on their assets, or imprison an innocent family member of someone they want to extort or blackmail.” 

On Iranian intelligence agents:

“Iran’s multiple intelligence agencies function with impunity and see themselves as being above, or outside of, the law.”

“Iran’s intelligence agencies operate like gangsters, and the state-run prison system is their dumping ground.”

On Iran’s practice of arresting dual nationals:

“Those with foreign passports are seen as high value bargaining chips by a regime keen to extract concessions from foreign governments.” 

“Unfortunately, as we have seen in my case and in those of many others, hostage diplomacy pays dividends for a regime that has very few other points of international leverage.” 

On the importance of justice:

“Injustice is arguably at the root of all human rights violations. Without respect for justice there can be no respect for human rights.”

Full Remarks

In September 2018, I was arbitrarily detained in Iran after I travelled there to attend a seminar and conduct academic research.

I was put on trial, convicted of espionage and given a 10-year sentence. 

I was ultimately held for 2 years and 3 months as a diplomatic hostage in Tehran’s Evin and Qarchak prisons.

So today, I want to talk to you about justice.

In Iran today, justice itself has been warped to serve the interests of an elite few, whose primary goal is instrumentalising the judiciary to hold onto power, rather than using it to uphold the rights and obligations of its citizens.

In the absence of the rule of law, all other violations of citizens’ rights become permissible, and often go unpunished. 

Without first fixing its broken justice system, Iran doesn’t have a hope in hell of improving its horrific record on human rights.

During my time in prison in Iran, I saw the devastating impact of a corrupt justice system up close and firsthand.

Two notorious and all-too-common features of Iranian justice, as many Iranians will tell you, are its reliance on false confessions and arbitrary detention.

Like many innocent Iranian prisoners before me, I was subjected to the psychological torture of solitary confinement, a method of detention designed to pressure me into making a false confession.

The Iranian judiciary accepts false confessions made under conditions of physical and psychological torture as evidence in court, and even uses such confessions as grounds for capital punishment.

Among others, Swedish-Iranian Doctor Ahmad-Reza Djalali is currently on death row due to this very practice.

Whilst I did not make a false confession, I know many who have.

My dear friend Niloufar Bayani, a former employee of the World Environment Program in Geneva, confessed to the ludicrous charge of being a spy after being shown videos of the dead body of her close colleague Professor Kavous Seyed-Emami, who had mysteriously died under interrogation.

Niloufar was told that Professor Seyed-Emami had been executed, and that both herself and her other colleagues were next unless she made a false confession.

Amidst her grief at his death Nilou signed a confession dictated to her by security agents.

In spite of multiple attempts to retract this in court, as in the case of Doctor Djalali the judge cited this confession made under psychological torture as grounds for conviction.

Arbitrary arrest is also a common practice employed within the Iranian justice system,

and it affects not only the cases of foreign and dual-nationals like me, held for purposes of hostage diplomacy, but is also routinely used against ordinary Iranians.

Iran’s prisons are crowded with regular people who have been arbitrarily scooped up and incarcerated due to amateurish intelligence-gathering by brainwashed and paranoid security operatives.

Iran’s multiple intelligence agencies function with impunity and see themselves as being above, or outside of, the law.

During the protests which broke out in Iran in November 2019, Evin prison was packed to the rafters with everyday people who had been picked up off the streets and thrown into prison, seemingly at random.

Rather than being imprisoned for committing an actual crime, they are essentially victims of collective punishment- their incarceration was designed to serve as a warning and a deterrent to others who might consider taking to the streets.

I have also encountered people in prison whose presence there is solely due to “payback.”

For example, security operatives arrest someone in order to get their hands on their assets, or imprison an innocent family member of someone they want to extort or blackmail.

In a well-known case of arbitrary arrest, Ali-Reza Ali Nejad has been sentenced to 8 years in prison for no reason whatsoever other than his refusal to denounce his sister, US-based journalist Masih Ali Nejad, in public.

Iran’s intelligence agencies operate like gangsters, and the state-run prison system is their dumping ground.

More prominent are the cases of arbitrarily-arrested dual nationals such as Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, Anoosheh Ashoori, Fariba Adelkhah, Siamak Namazi, Nahid Taghavi and Massud Mossaheb, among others.

Those with foreign passports are seen as high value bargaining chips by a regime keen to extract concessions from foreign governments.

Iran’s justice system colludes with and enables this odious practice by affording it judicial legitimacy.

Unfortunately, as we have seen in my case and in those of many others, hostage diplomacy pays dividends for a regime that has very few other points of international leverage.

The current situation is a dark stain on Iran’s rich heritage and tradition of respect for justice and the rule of law.

This dates back to the time of Cyrus the Great, whose outlawing of slavery and legislating freedom of religion and racial equality has been recognized as the world’s first charter of human rights.

The corrupt practices of Iran’s justice system also contradict the very Islamic values which the regime claims to uphold.

The Qur’an famously asserts that justice “is next to piety,” and is full of verses instructing followers to behave justly toward others, including both witnesses and judges in courts of law.

Iran’s judiciary pays lip service to Islamic values whilst routinely jailing people known to be innocent, on the basis of false confessions or due to their value as domestic or diplomatic hostages.

Injustice is arguably at the root of all human rights violations. Without respect for justice there can be no respect for human rights.

I ask you to please remember the tens of thousands of innocent victims of Iran’s corrupt justice system. Thank you.