Iran: Inhumane treatment of prisoners

February 10, 2017

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IFHHRO is deeply concerned about our colleague Dr Ahmadreza Djalali (45), a resident of Sweden who has been detained in Iran since 25 April 2016. He has been on hunger strike since 26 December 2016 in protest against his detention. This week, Amnesty International initiated an urgent action on his behalf.

Dr Djalali has been detained in Tehran’s Evin prison since his arrest on 25 April 2016. His lawyer told Amnesty International that the authorities have yet to issue an official indictment and schedule a trial. However, in December 2016, the authorities put Dr Djalali under intense pressure to sign a statement, “confessing” to being a spy for a “hostile government”. When he refused, he was threatened with the death penalty. In protest, he began a hunger strike and his health has deteriorated since.

Ahmadreza Djalali is a medical doctor, lecturer and researcher in disaster medicine, who has taught in universities in Belgium, Italy and Sweden. He was held for seven months (three of which were spent in solitary confinement) in a special section of Evin prison that is under the control of the Ministry of Intelligence. During this period, he said, he was subjected to intense interrogations and was forced under great emotional and psychological pressure to sign statements.

Denial of medical care

The situation in Iranian prisons is notoriously bad. In September 2016, Amnesty International published an alarming report on the denial of medical care in Iran’s prisons. Only last week, IFHHRO along with three other organizations representing health professionals, i.e., the World Medical Association, the Standing Committee of European Doctors (CPME) and the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT) sent a letter to Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani, Head of the Judiciary of Iran. This letter explicitly focuses on the inhumane conditions at Raja’I Shahr Prison, particularly regarding the political prisoners in that jail. The most common complaints from detainees include:

  • the deliberate indifference of prison officials to prisoners’ medical needs;
  • their refusal to transfer critically ill prisoners to hospitals outside the prison;
  • long periods of time without hot water for washing and bathing;
  • inadequate space;
  • poor ventilation;
  • unsanitary conditions;
  • insect infestations near kitchen areas;
  • insufficient cleaning supplies; and
  • meagre rations of (poor quality) food.

The authors state: “We are extremely concerned by this situation that precludes access to adequate medical care, a key human right which under international law and standards must not be adversely affected by imprisonment. Denying medical care amounts to ill treatments and can constitute a form of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment that are unambiguously prohibited under international human rights law.

We therefore call upon the Iranian authorities to stop using the denial of timely and adequate medical care as a form of additional punishment against political prisoners and to take immediate steps to protect prisoners at Raja’i Shahr Prison from torture and other ill-treatment, ensuring that they are treated humanely in accordance with international law and standards…”
Download the letter (PDF) by WMA/IFHHRO/IRCT/CPME, 31 January 2017