Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

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United Nations

Urgent Medical Treatment Needed for Detainees with Life-Threatening Conditions, say UN Experts

UN Human Rights Experts
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights
July 10, 2019
Appeal/Urgent Action

UN human rights experts* today expressed serious concern that Iran continues to deny appropriate healthcare to detainees, despite repeated calls.

“Over several months we have communicated to the Iranian Government our deep concerns about the physical and mental integrity of detainees,” the experts said.  “Despite Government assurances, we are frustrated to still receive reports of denial of medical treatment, including in life-threatening situations. These no longer appear to be isolated incidents, but a consistent pattern.”

The critical condition of human rights defender Arash Sadeghi, who has reportedly been diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer, is particularly alarming. Sadeghi was sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment by a Revolutionary Court in August 2015 on charges of “assembly and collusion in the form of propaganda against the State”; “insulting the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran”; “publishing lies in cyberspace”; and “propaganda against the regime”. The experts said his peaceful human rights activism included social media posts and communications with journalists and human rights defenders abroad in relation to the human rights situation in Iran.

Prison authorities at Raja’i Shahr Prison have reportedly denied him access to medical treatment. Sadeghi’s health condition deteriorated after he was returned to prison against the advice of doctors and following an operation in September 2018.

Grave concern is also expressed for Ahmadreza Djalali and Kamran Ghaderi. Djalali, a Swedish-Iranian dual national, medical doctor and a researcher at the Karolinska Institute of Medicine in Stockholm, was convicted and sentenced to death on a charge of “corruption on earth” for allegedly spying in Iran. Held in Evin Prison, Djalali has been denied access to appropriate healthcare, although medical tests indicate he may have cancer.

Ghaderi, an Austrian-Iranian dual national and businessman charged with espionage, is serving a 10-year prison sentence. Also in Evin Prison, he has also been denied appropriate medical treatment, despite a tumour in his leg.

Sadeghi, Djalali and Ghaderi have been treated for other conditions but the experts said they were concerned it came intermittently after delays, and that appropriate recovery treatment and follow-up by specialists is still not provided.

Two women, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Narges Mohammadi, whose health concerns were detailed in a January 2019 public statement,** have also continued to be denied appropriate healthcare.

“We urge the Iranian Government to immediately and unconditionally provide all the concerned individuals access to the appropriate medical treatment and care, as well as to other detainees who are in need of appropriate healthcare,” the experts said.

The experts also highlighted numerous reports that the physical and mental integrity of prisoners in Iran is further jeopardised by unsafe and unsanitary detention conditions. According to reports received, many Iranian prisons have issues ranging from overcrowding, contaminated food and water, rodent and insect infestations and unhygienic facilities to inadequate temperature controls.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has previously found that four individuals named in this statement are being arbitrarily detained and has called for their immediate release.***

“We reiterate our calls for the immediate release of human rights defenders and all other individuals who have been found to be arbitrarily detained, as well as for the release of all others in Iranian detention facilities who are currently held arbitrarily,” the experts said.

The UN experts have previously notified the Government of Iran about their concerns.

(*) The UN experts: Mr. Dainius Pῡras,Special Rapporteur on the right to health; Mr. Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Mr. David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Mr. José Antonio Guevara Bermúdez, Chair-Rapporteur, Working Group on Arbitrary Detention;Ms. Fionnuala Ní Aoláin,Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism;Dr. Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions;Mr. Nils Melzer Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment;Mr. Javaid Rehman, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Councils independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

** On 16 January 2019, UN experts released a public statement concerning the denial of appropriate healthcare to Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Narges Mohammadi.

*** The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has previously found that Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe (A/HRC/WGAD/2016/28), Narges Mohammadi (A/HRC/WGAD/2017/48), Arash Sadeghi (A/HRC/WGAD/2018/19) and Ahmadreza Djalali (A/HRC/WGAD/2017/92) are being arbitrarily detained and called for their immediate release.