Blog Archives

Amnesty International – Iran – PRISONERS AT RISK OF COVID-19 INFECTION

Amnesty International – Iran – PRISONERS AT RISK OF COVID-19 INFECTION

Dear friends,

Please find attached and copied below an Urgent Action that Amnesty International issued today calling on the Iranian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release hundreds of prisoners of conscience amid grave 2e0c4-amnesty-internationalfears over the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in Iran’s prisons. The authorities should take measures to protect the health of all prisoners and urgently consider releasing other prisoners – especially pre-trial detainees and those who may be at more risk from the virus – and take necessary measures to protect the health of all prisoners, including providing equal access to testing.

The Urgent Action is available on the Amnesty International website at the following link:https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/mde13/2038/2020/en/

Many thanks and best wishes,
Iran team

 URGENT ACTION

 PRISONERS AT RISK OF COVID-19 INFECTION
 
The Iranian authorities must immediately and unconditionally release hundreds of prisoners of conscience amid grave fears over the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in Iran’s prisons. The authorities should take measures to protect the health of all prisoners and urgently consider releasing pre-trial detainees and those who may be at particular risk of severe illness or death.
 
TAKE ACTION: WRITE AN APPEAL IN YOUR OWN WORDS OR USE THIS MODEL LETTER
 
Head of Judiciary Ebrahim Raisi
C/o Permanent Mission of Iran to the UN
622 Third Ave., 34th floor
New York, NY 10017, USA
 
Dear Mr Ebrahim Raisi,
 
I am writing about the distressing spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in Iran’s prisons. While I am aware of measures announced by the Iranian authorities to release some prisoners in response to the outbreak, I am concerned that hundreds of prisoners of conscience remain jailed, including human rights defenders, peaceful protesters and others detained solely for peacefully expressing their rights to freedom of expression, association and/or assembly. They should not be in detention in the first place.
 
More generally, I am also concerned about the health of all prisoners in Iran. In several prisons across the country, prisoners have tested positive for COVID-19, raising grave concerns for other prisoners held in the same wards. According to the World Health Organization, some groups of people appear to be at particular risk of severe illness or death, including older individuals and people with pre-existing medical conditions. Iran’s prison population includes such groups. Additionally, some prisoners have been systematically denied adequate medical care, which could leave them more vulnerable to the effects of the virus if they contracted it. Amnesty International has documented the denial of adequate medical care as a punitive measure against prisoners of conscience.
 
Many prisoners across the country have pleaded with officials to address overcrowded, unhygienic and unsanitary conditions in prisons that put them at greater risk of COVID-19 infections. There are also reports that some prisoners have not been provided with sufficient soap or other sanitary products. Many families have also raised concerns for the wellbeing of jailed relatives and believe that the Iranian authorities should be systematically testing prisoners who may be showing symptoms of COVID-19.
 
I urge you to immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners of conscience, including human rights defenders and those detained for peacefully taking part in the November 2019 and January 2020 protests. I also urge you to urgently consider releasing other prisoners – especially pre-trial detainees and those who may be more at risk from the virus – and take necessary measures to protect the health of all prisoners, including equal access to testing.
 
Yours sincerely,      


 
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
 

There are concerns about the spread of coronavirus inside Iran’s prisons and that the Iranian authorities have failed to sufficiently protect prison populations. The Human Rights Activists News Agency, based outside Iran, has reported that: in Shahr-e Rey prison (also known as Gharchak), in the city of Varamin, two prisoners have died from COVID-19 in solitary confinement in recent days after being denied medical care and admittance to hospital; in the same prison prior to this, despite some prisoners testing positive for coronavirus, prisoners were only checked for fevers and provided with a bleach-water solution to disinfect surfaces themselves, which, they say, emitted fumes that irritated their lungs; in Central Karaj prison, there have been new cases of coronavirus reported on a daily basis and other prisoners have gone on hunger strike in protest at the shortage of sanitary products and the lack of measures taken to prevent the spread of the virus inside the prison; in Urumieh prison, in early March 2020 over a hundred prisoners in one section of the prison went on hunger strike at the shortage of sanitary products inside the prison despite suspected cases of coronavirus among prisoners; and, in Tehran’s Evin prison, prisoners raised concerns that the women’s ward was disinfected after a guard tested positive for coronavirus, and that, prior to that, the ward had to share use of one disinfectant product between them. The Ahwaz Human Rights Organization also reported that two prisoners in Central Ahvaz prison had contracted coronavirus and that other prisoners in the same ward had not been tested. Several prisoners of conscience also went on hunger strike in Evin prison in protest at the authorities continued refusal to grant them prison leave.

Many of Iran’s prisons have detention conditions that fall far short of international standards, including with respect to overcrowding, poor ventilation, limited hot water during the winter season, inadequate food, insufficient beds and insect infestations. Seehttps://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2018/03/iran-new-evidence-of-appalling-treatment-of-women-human-rights-defenders-held-in-shahre-rey-prison/; and https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/mde13/5515/2017/en/ for more information. Such prison conditions are highly susceptible to the spread of infectious disease.

Since the outbreak of coronavirus in Iran became publicly known in February 2020, many prisoners’ families have been raising concerns for the wellbeing of those jailed and calling for the release of prisoners of conscience and those held on politically motivated charges. They have repeatedly voiced their fears that the lack of sanitary products and poor prison conditions put prisoners at greater risk. They have also called on Iran’s State Prison Organization, which is under the authority of the judiciary, to regularly disinfect prisons, provide masks and hand sanitizers to prisoners, quarantine those suspected of having the virus and grant prison leave to as many prisoners as possible. While Iran’s judiciary has made a number of announcements about how it intends to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in prisons, including plans to release thousands of prisoners temporarily and upon payment of bail and to grant pardons to certain types of prisoners, hundreds of prisoners of conscience remain jailed (for more information).

According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, prison populations are particularly exposed to infectious diseases like COVID-19 and conditions of detention can exacerbate the risks. These include the risk of higher transmission rates, especially in overcrowded prisons and when health systems are of poorer quality than in the community. Under international law, as reflected in the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules), prison authorities must ensure that all prisoners have prompt access to medical attention and health care. The provision of health care for prisoners is a state responsibility. Prisoners should enjoy the same standards of health care that are available in the community, including when it comes to testing, prevention and treatment of COVID-19. Where a prison service has its own hospital facilities, they must be adequately staffed and equipped to provide prisoners referred to them with appropriate treatment and care. Prisoners who require specialized treatment or surgery should be transferred to specialized institutions or to civilian hospitals.

 
PREFERRED LANGUAGE TO ADDRESS TARGET: Persian, English
You can also write in your own language.
 
PLEASE TAKE ACTION AS SOON AS POSSIBLE UNTIL: 7 May 2020
Please check with the Amnesty office in your country if you wish to send appeals after the deadline.
 
NAME AND PREFERRED PRONOUN: Group (them/they)

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL; Iran: At least 23 children killed by security forces in November protests – new evidence

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL 
PRESS RELEASE 
Iran: At least 23 children killed by security forces in November protests – new evidence
Collage Child Victims - Reduced size

 

Dear friends,

Today, Amnesty International issued a briefing entitled ‘They shot our children’ – Killings amnesty-internationalof minors in Iran’s November 2019 protests which presents evidence uncovered by Amnesty International that at least 23 children were killed by Iranian security forces in the nationwide protests in November last year.

The children killed include 22 boys, aged between 12 and 17, and a girl reportedly aged between eight and 12. Twelve of the 23 deaths recorded by Amnesty International took place on 16 November, a further eight on 17 November, and three on 18 November. Details of the deaths are included in the new briefing.

Please find attached the briefing and its accompanying press release (in English and Persian). The briefing and press release are available at the following links: https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/mde13/1894/2020/en/ [briefing] https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/03/iran-at-least-23-children-killed-by-security-forces-in-november-protests-new-evidence/ [press release]

Many thanks and best wishes,
Iran team

  • AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL 
    PRESS RELEASE 
    4 March 2020 
     
    Iran: At least 23 children killed by security forces in November protests – new evidence
     
    An investigation by Amnesty International has uncovered evidence that at least 23 children were killed by Iranian security forces in the nationwide protests in November last year.
     
    At least 22 of the children were shot dead by Iranian security forces unlawfully firing live ammunition at unarmed protesters and bystanders, according to the findings.
     
    The children killed include 22 boys, aged between 12 and 17, and a girl reportedly aged between eight and 12. Details of their deaths are included in a new Amnesty International briefing, ‘They shot our children’ – Killings of minors in Iran’s November 2019 protests.
     
    “In recent months an increasingly gruesome picture has emerged of the extent to which Iranian security forces unlawfully used lethal force to crush last year’s nationwide protests. However, it is still devastating to learn that the number of children who fell victim to this brutality is so shockingly high,” said Philip Luther, Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.
     
    “There must be independent and impartial investigations into these killings, and those suspected of ordering and carrying them out must be prosecuted in fair trials.”
     
    Amnesty International has gathered evidence from videos and photographs, as well as death and burial certificates, accounts from eyewitnesses and victims’ relatives, friends and acquaintances on the ground, and information gathered from human rights activists and journalists. 
     
    In 10 cases, Amnesty International learned from the description of injuries on the death or burial certificates it reviewed, or information from credible sources, that the deaths occurred as a result of gunshots to the head or torso – indicating that the security forces were shooting to kill.
     
    In two of the cases, burial certificates set out in detail the devastating impact on
    the children’s bodies. One cited injuries including bleeding, a crushed brain and a shattered skull. The other indicated that the cause of the death was extensive internal bleeding, and a pierced heart and lung. 
     
    In one child’s case, there are conflicting reports on the cause of death, with one referring to fatal head injuries sustained by beatings by security forces and another referring to the firing of metal pellets at the victim’s face from a close distance. 
     
    Twelve of the 23 deaths recorded by Amnesty International took place on 16 November, a further eight on 17 November, and three on 18 November. The protests started on 15 November.
     
    The 23 children are recorded as having been killed in 13 cities in six provinces across the country (Esfahan, Fars, Kermanshah, Khuzestan, Kurdistan and Tehran), reflecting the widespread nature of the bloody crackdown. 
     
    “The fact that the vast majority of the children’s deaths took place over just two days is further evidence that Iranian security forces went on a killing spree to quash dissent at any cost,” said Philip Luther.
     
    “As the Iranian authorities have refused to open independent, impartial and effective investigations, it is imperative that member states of the UN Human Rights Council mandate an inquiry into the killings of protesters and bystanders, including these children, in the November protests.” 
     
    On 25 February, Amnesty International wrote to Iran’s Minister of Interior Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli to provide him with the list of the names of the 23 children recorded as killed, along with their ages and places of death, and to seek the authorities’ comments on the circumstances of their death. As of 3 March, the organization had received no response.
     
    State cover-up and harassment
     
    Amnesty International spoke to relatives of some the children killed who described being subjected to harassment and intimidation, including surveillance and interrogations by intelligence and security officials. At least one family received veiled death threats against their surviving children and were warned that “something horrible” would also happen to them if they spoke out.
     
    This corresponds with a broader issue where families of those killed in protests are being intimidated by the state from talking openly about their deaths. Most have reported being forced to sign undertakings that they would not speak to the media, and observe restrictions on how they commemorate their loved ones in
    order to be able to receive their bodies. In many cases, security and intelligence officials have placed the families under surveillance, and attended their funeral and memorial ceremonies in order to ensure that the restrictions are observed. 
     
    Families of children killed also reported being forced to bury them quickly in the presence of security and intelligence officials, thereby preventing them from seeking an independent autopsy. Such conduct appears aimed at suppressing incriminating evidence. 
     
    In general, Amnesty International’s research has found that the families of those killed in protests have been consistently excluded from autopsies undertaken by the state forensic institute and denied access to information on the circumstances of their deaths, including details of the ammunition that killed them and the weapon that fired it.
     
    In some cases, officials washed and prepared the bodies of victims for burial without notifying their families and then handed them the bodies, wrapped in shrouds, just minutes before the scheduled burial. Amnesty International understands that in these cases, security and intelligence officials generally sought to prevent families from pulling back the shrouds to see the bodies of their loved ones. As a result, some families say they were not able to see the impact of injuries. 
     
    In other cases, authorities have also refused to hand over the belongings of the victims to their relatives, including their phones, raising suspicions that they worried these contained evidence of unlawful actions by the state. 
     
    “As if the loss of their loved ones was not cruel enough an experience to bear, families of children killed during the protests are facing a ruthless campaign of harassment to intimidate them from speaking out,” said Philip Luther. 
     
    “The authorities also seem to be desperate to prevent bereaved relatives finding out the full truth about the killings, and getting hold of evidence that would incriminate those responsible. This bears all the hallmarks of a state cover-up.” 
     
    Background 
     
    Protests erupted in Iran on 15 November 2019 following a sudden government announcement about a fuel price hike. According to credible reports compiled by Amnesty International, at least 304 people were killed and thousands injured between 15 and 18 November as authorities crushed the protests using lethal force. During and following the protests, the Iranian authorities arbitrarily detained thousands of detainees and subjected some to enforced disappearance, torture and other ill-treatment. 
     
    ENDS
     
    Public Document 
    ****************************************
     
    For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:
     
    +44 207 413 5566 
     
    Out of hours contact details:
    +44 20 7413 5566 
     
    Twitter: @amnestypress
%d bloggers like this: