The UN voiced outrage Friday (April 3rd) over the death of a juvenile offender in Iran following reported beatings by guards after prisoners protested seeking their release due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The UN rights office said it had received information that Daniel Zeinolabedini died after suffering beatings following a riot in Mahabad prison in Iran's West Azerbaijan province on March 28th.
"We are horrified at the death of a juvenile offender after he was reportedly badly beaten by security officers," said spokesman Rupert Colville.
He said prisoners at Mahabad had been protesting against their "prison conditions and the failure of the authorities to temporarily release them amid the COVID-19 pandemic".
Iran, which has been hit hard by the pandemic, has released some 100,000 prisoners, or around 40% of its entire prison population, to reduce crowding.
Zeinolabedini, who was on death row for a murder he allegedly committed in September 2017 at the age of 17, was put in solitary confinement and beaten by security officials at Mahabad.
He was then transferred to Miandoab prison in the same region, where he also suffered abuse, according to information provided to the rights office.
"His family said he called them on March 31st to tell them he had been badly beaten, could hardly breathe and desperately needed help. His death was confirmed on April 2nd," Colville said.
The rights office said it was "particularly shocked" at Zeinolabedini's case, since his conviction and death sentence were upheld by Iran's Supreme Court, despite death sentences for crimes committed by minors being strictly prohibited by international law.
Colville stressed that Zeinolabedini had continued to profess his innocence.
"We call on the Iranian authorities to immediately conduct an independent and impartial investigation into Zeinolabedini's death and hold those responsible to account," he said.
"We are also concerned at the fate of six other people who were also reportedly beaten during the riot on March 28th and taken to Miandoab prison," he added, urging Iranian authorities "to take all measures to protect their lives".