Prisoners

Nearly 100 Iranians Died from Medical Negligence in Prison: Amnesty

April 12, 2022
IranWire
3 min read
Gonabadi dervish Behnam Mahjoubi died after falling into a coma in February 2021, having repeatedly been denied medical leave
Gonabadi dervish Behnam Mahjoubi died after falling into a coma in February 2021, having repeatedly been denied medical leave
Last year leaked footage from Evin Prison showed guards abusing a seriously ill detainee
Last year leaked footage from Evin Prison showed guards abusing a seriously ill detainee
Workers' rights activist Mohammad Jarahi died in October 2017 after being denied proper medical care for thyroid cancer
Workers' rights activist Mohammad Jarahi died in October 2017 after being denied proper medical care for thyroid cancer
Poet and filmmaker Baktash Abtin died from Covid-19 on January 8 this year
Poet and filmmaker Baktash Abtin died from Covid-19 on January 8 this year
Human rights watchdogs have raised the alarm over the worsening health of young activist Sepideh Gholian
Human rights watchdogs have raised the alarm over the worsening health of young activist Sepideh Gholian

At least 65 prisoners and detainees have died in Iran in the last five years apparently due to denial of healthcare, a new report by Amnesty International has found.

The charity’s survey of 30 prisons in 18 provinces recorded a “staggering” 96 cases of deaths in custody since 2010, all linked to “credible reports” of having been denied vital medical care.

Sixty-four out of the 96 had died in prison, including 17 in their own cells, and 16 in often poorly-equipped and understaffed prison clinics. At least 26 died during transfer or shortly after admission to hospital following seemingly deliberate and fatal delays by prison officials.

In at least six cases, critically ill prisoners were moved to solitary confinement, punishment wards or quarantine sections; four of them died alone while two were given the sign-off for transfer to hospital, but too late.

It comes amid reports that civil rights campaigner Sepideh Gholian is now critically ill in prison, and after the death of jailed poet Baktash Abtin from Covid-19 earlier this year.

The charity accused Iranian prison officials of engaging in a systematic, knowing deprivation of the right to life. “The Iranian authorities’ chilling disregard for human life has effectively turned Iran’s prisons into a waiting room of death for ill prisoners,” said regional deputy Diana Eltahawy.

In the majority of cases, the prisoners who died were either young or middle-aged. Twenty-three of them were aged 19 to 39, and 26 were aged 40 the ages of 40 and 59. Twenty of the 96 were being held for political reasons.

Researchers also noted that prisons with high populations of ethnic and religious minorities had recorded the most deaths in custody.

Some 22 of the 96 incidents took place in Urmia, West Azerbaijan, where most prisoners are Kurdish or Azerbaijani Turkic. Another 13 took place in Zahedan, Sistan and Baluchistan, where the majority of those held are Baluchis.

In many cases, Amnesty reported, prison officials were known to have cast doubt on whether an inmate needed medical treatment before they died.

One such prisoner was Nader Alizehi, who died in November 2017 aged just 22. He was refused medical care for heart disease and given stomach pills instead by the prison clinic, where he was also accused of “faking” his illness.

In total 11 of the prisoners died from a specific, traumatic injury or injuries sustained after their arrest. The other 85 were denied adequate care for serious illness including heart attacks and strokes, respiratory issues, kidney problems, Covid-19 and other infectious diseases.

Iran’s Prisons Regulations allow for a single around-the-clock GP for every 3,000 prisoners. Facilities holding 500 people or fewer often rely solely on nurses and medical assistants.

The judiciary and security agencies also often have a decisive hand in whether a given detainee is declared unfit for incarceration. Political prisoners including the Gonabadi dervish Behnam Mahjoubi have died due to a withholding of compassionate leave, despite doctors’ recommendations.

“These violations of the right to life,” Amnesty wrote, “stem from an institutional culture in Iran’s prisons… facilitated by unchecked powers granted to prison officials, amid a culture of impunity for torture and other ill-treatment against prisoners.”

The withholding of medical care, researchers added, was an “intentional act of cruelty intended to break their spirit of resistance, punish them for their dissent or even bring about or hasten their demise”.

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Nearly 100 Iranians Died from Medical Negligence in Prison: Amnesty