Human Rights

Amnesty slams 'climate of impunity' over Iran prison deaths

By Al-Mashareq and AFP

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Since January 2010, at least 72 deaths occurred at 42 prisons and detention centres in 16 provinces across Iran, Amnesty International reported September 15. [Amnesty International]

Amnesty International has condemned the "climate of impunity" that prevails in Iran over deaths in custody even though more than 70 such cases have been reported in the past 11 years.

"Iranian authorities have failed to provide accountability for at least 72 deaths in custody since January 2010, despite credible reports that they resulted from torture or other ill-treatment or the lethal use of firearms and tear gas by officials," the London-based rights group said in a statement Wednesday (September 15).

The latest documented case involved a 31-year-old whose death was reported to his family by intelligence ministry officials in Urumieh, West Azarbaijan province, on September 8, Amnesty said.

"Reports of the death of Yaser Mangouri in suspicious circumstances further exposes [sic] how the prevailing climate of impunity further emboldens security forces to violate prisoners' right to life without any fear of consequence or accountability," said Heba Morayef, Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa director.

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Leaked surveillance footage from Evin Prison, obtained from Iranian independent media outlets, shows visual evidence of of beatings, sexual harassment, and deliberate neglect and ill treatment of those in need of medical care, Amnesty International said August 25. [Private - Evin Prison]

Iran's judicial officials announced Wednesday that Mangouri "was killed in an armed conflict".

Amnesty said that in 46 of the 72 deaths in custody, informed sources said they had resulted from "physical torture or other ill-treatment at the hands of intelligence and security agents or prison officials".

Another 15 deaths were caused by the use of firearms or tear gas by prison guards to suppress protests over COVID-19 safety fears, said Amnesty.

For the remaining 11 cases, the deaths occurred in suspicious circumstances, but no further details about potential causes were available, it added.

"Iranian authorities typically blame deaths in custody on suicide, drug overdose or illness in a rushed manner and without conducting any independent and transparent investigations," the watchdog said.

History of rights violations

Amnesty's report follows an admission by Iran's prisons chief last month that "unacceptable behaviour" had taken place at the notorious Evin prison in Tehran after videos published abroad appeared to show violence against detainees.

The footage of prison guards beating and mistreating detainees was reportedly obtained by hackers who accessed surveillance cameras at the prison.

Evin prison, situated in northern Tehran, is one of the country's most notorious prisons, where almost all high profile political prisoners are incarcerated.

In July, Amnesty and nine other rights groups urged member states of the United Nations' Human Rights Council to establish a mechanism to collect, preserve and analyse evidence of the most serious crimes committed in the Islamic republic.

On July 27, Swedish prosecutors started the trial of Iranian national Hamid Noury, who is charged with "war crimes and murder" in connection with the execution of more than 100 political prisoners in 1988 in Iran.

The mass executions were decided by a group later known as the "death commission", in which Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi had a key role.

The treatment of inmates at Iran's prisons and the incarceration of intellectuals and humans rights defenders have not gone unnoticed in the West.

On Thursday, the US writers' association, PEN, announced it would give its prize in the category of "Freedom of Writing" to three imprisoned Iranian writers.

The three were sentenced to a total of 15.5 years in prison on charges such as "threatening national security and propaganda against the regime".

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