Iranian Government Responsible to Protect Prisoners against Fourth Wave of COVID
April 14, 2021—The start of a fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Iran has increased concerns about the spread of the virus in the country’s overcrowded and unhygienic prisons and detention centers, the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) said in a statement today.
As an arm of the Judiciary directly responsible for protecting prisoners’ health, the State Prisons Organization has been unlawfully endangering the lives of the prison population by failing to maintain sanitary conditions and providing inadequate medical services.
“Iranian judicial officials must act quickly to deploy all legal resources to reduce the number of incarcerated individuals as much as possible,” said CHRI’s executive director Hadi Ghaemi.
“Urgent steps could include granting furloughs on a large scale, stopping the baseless rejection of parole requests, employing skilled prisoners outside prisons and allowing sentence reviews by independent branches of the Supreme Court in full compliance with Article 477 of Code of Criminal Procedure,” Ghaemi added.
He continued: “The refusal of the Iranian authorities to implement the laws and their creation of obstacles in violation of the rights and freedoms of political inmates, prisoners of conscience and other detained peaceful dissidents who are not a threat to public security, shows the arbitrary and punitive treatment these prisoners face.”
While expressing serious concerns regarding prisoners’ health during the latest pandemic upsurge, CHRI calls on the Iranian authorities to take urgent and immediate actions to prevent further spread of the disease in the country’s prisons.
Lack of medical attention and proper facilities for prisoners suffering from COVID, poor sanitary conditions and overpopulation in tight spaces in many prisons are causes for serious concerns among inmates and their families as well.
The Iranian authorities cannot shrug off their responsibilities in guaranteeing the health and safety of prisoners who do not have the freedom and resources that other citizens have to protect their life.
On April 12, 2021, a group of inmates in Evin Prison’s Ward 8 issued a statement demanding urgent action by the authorities to stop the spread of the virus, which has recently infected several prisoners, including Baktash Abtin, a board member of the Iranian Writers Association.
“Before more tragedy hits the prisons, the judicial authorities must take steps to overcome dangerous conditions in Iran’s prisons,” the statement said.
Civil rights activists and human rights lawyers have repeatedly warned the government of Iran of the grave dangers facing prisoners. Despite official claims that a large number of prisoners have been freed on furlough as a precautionary measure, most political prisoners, dual nationals and prisoners of conscience have been excluded.
Read this article in Persian.
Persian Translation: WHO Guidance on Protecting Prison Populations from COVID-19
Persian Translation: UN Guidance on Protecting People with Disabilities from COVID-19