Imprisoned for their battle to promote human rights in Iran, Jafar Panahi and Nasrin Satoudeh are worthy winners of this year's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. However, their precarious situation shows how far the country still has to go to before its citizens are able to enjoy the rights they are entitled to. On 28 November the EP's human rights subcommittee and the delegation for relations with Iran held a public hearing to discuss what could be done.
Portuguese Social Democrat MEP Ana Gomes, a member of the human rights subcommittee, said: "It's absolutely despicable what we hear about all these people, human rights activists, lawyers, in jail and the treatment they are enduring in Iranian jails."
Faraz Sanei, of Human Rights Watch, said: "Countries in the European Union should look at measures to allow more circulation and freedom of information, especially on the internet. The EU should do more with countries that have good relations with Iran." He also called on the EU to closely monitor the effects of sanctions on the general population in Iran.
Dr Shirin Ebadi, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for her work defending human rights in Iran, said: "Sanctions must be smart sanctions so that the people in Iran are not harmed, yet at the same time the government is weakened." She said Europe should prevent Iran from using its satellites for broadcasting. She welcomed the EU's blacklist of Iranians violating human rights, which results in them being banned from entering Europe and having their assets there confiscated. She said this list should be expanded.
Dutch Liberal Democrat MEP Marietje Schaake, a member of the delegation for relations with the US and a substitute of the delegation for relations with Iran, raised concerns about how US sanctions targeting Iran were limiting the EU's possibilities to influence the process. "We must address this with the United States to make sure that the EU can play its own role, which should be independent and complementary, but clearly different from the United States. EU sanctions consistently seek to address the authorities and we try to make sure that the population is not disproportionally targeted. There shouldn't be a collective punishment."
Dr Ahmed Shaheed, United Nations' special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, said: "Iran is concerned about negative publicity. If more and more countries would engage on this subject and talk to it about human rights, there is a better chance of something positive happening."