The plight of Iran’s political prisoners

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11 April 2014 - The situation of prisoners in Iran is precarious, especially political prisoners. The death penalty is still applied in Iran, and with alarming frequency. In 2013 over 625 people were executed, including a number of political prisoners. For those who are spared the fate of execution, other dangers still abound. A major concern assessed by a group of UN human rights experts is the denial of medical care to incarcerated persons.

In a joint statement, the UN experts urge the Iranian government to immediately review the case of two political prisoners who are at risk of dying in captivity, and provide them with urgently needed medical attention. However, the government of Iran has yet to deliver a formal response.

Mohammad Reza Pourshajari, was arrested in 2010 for the blog he maintained. Serving a four-year term, he had a heart attack and has been suffering from prostate disease, and has kidney stones, high sugar level, breathing problems and high blood pressure.

Sayed Hossein Kazemeyni Boroujerdi, a religious cleric, was arrested for his religious beleifs and is serving an 11-year sentence. He suffers from Parkinson’s disease, diabetes and high blood pressure, breathing and walking problems, kidney stones and a heart condition.

The UN Special Rapporteurs explain, “We are gravely concerned about the worsening health condition of Mr. Pourshajari and Mr. Boroujerdi, who require urgent access to specialist medical treatment outside prison. The prison authorities have so far denied this fundamental right, despite prison physicians recommending such urgent care.”

Repeated torture, ill treatment, solitary confinement and general poor prison conditions have caused the men’s condition to severely deteriorate. The UN human rights experts reminded the Iranian Government of its obligations under international standards to respect the prisoners’ right to health and to ensure humane treatment, which requires transferring sick prisoners who need specialist medical care to a specialized institution or civil hospital.

Beyond medical treatment, the UN experts are calling for the immediate release of the two men who were “imprisoned for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression”. They call upon the Iranian government to “take immediate measures to investigate all allegations related to the denial of access to medical care, conditions of detention and the treatment of prisoners in compliance with international standards and to embark on more comprehensive prison reforms.”