UN and European Union legal experts are among 68 officials who have written an open letter to urge the prime minister of Belgium not to allow convicted Iranian diplomat Assadollah Assadi to return to his homeland.
Assadi is presently serving a 20-year prison sentence in Belgium for attempting to bomb an international rally organised by an Iranian opposition group in Paris in 2018.
The Belgian Federal Parliament has been considering the ratification of a proposed treaty with Iran that could allow the convicted terrorist to be released in exchange for a jailed aid worker and an academic.
This week, a group comprising 68 international officials sent a letter addressed to Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo warning against releasing Assadi.
The letter states that releasing Assadi “would only fuel the culture of impunity that exists for Iran’s officials”.
The 68 signatories come from 25 countries, among them 17 European nations.
Other signatories include a former UN undersecretary general for legal affairs, a former chairman of the UN International Law Commission, a former president of the UN Special Court for Sierra Leone and four former special rapporteurs.
The current special adviser to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, a former president of the European Commission of Human Rights, a former Council of Europe commissioner for human rights and a former secretary general of Amnesty International are also included among the signatories.
“Allowing Assadi to serve the remainder of his 20-year sentence in Iran, the state which was responsible for the attempted terrorist bombing, would make a mockery of the rule of law and foster further impunity for the Iranian government and its officials involved in terrorism and crimes against humanity,” the letter says.
“Transferring Assadi to Iran would effectively free him from serving his sentence and would set a dangerous precedent and seriously weaken the rule of law in Europe.”
The letter added that it would also encourage more Iranian terrorism on EU soil and reassure Iranian officials that they can evade responsibility for major international crimes.
“Belgium would bear heavy responsibility in this regard,” it continued.
“Iran is currently engaging in hostage diplomacy. It has in recent times arrested a number of European citizens or dual nationals on spurious charges.
“Accordingly, state media have stated plainly that these individuals would only be freed if Assadi is released back to Iran.”
In light of this, the officials urged the government of Belgium to resist Iran’s “hostage diplomacy tactics”.
“Rather than helping to foster impunity in Iran by releasing a convicted terrorist, the Belgian government should unequivocally declare that Assadollah Assadi will not be released back to Iran and that he must serve the remainder of his sentence in Belgium,” it said.
Earlier this week, the families of four European prisoners being held in Iran urged the EU to do more to seek their release.