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Rights Group: Amid Coronavirus Outbreak in Iran, Prisoners Are Most Vulnerable and Should Be Immediately Released

Iran Human Rights Monitor Monthly Report, March 2020
Iran Human Rights Monitor Monthly Report, March 2020

The Iran Human Rights Monitor (Iran HRM) published its monthly report for the month of March, in which it focused on the coronavirus outbreak in Iran particularly across Iranian prisons. 

Referring to the ongoing prison riots across Iran, Iran HRM wrote: “Various inmates in different jails throughout Iran are infected with this illness. Six inmates have already lost their lives in the Greater Tehran Penitentiary (Fashafuyeh), which lacks even basic hygiene necessities. Inmates suffering from coronavirus are not being separated from others in this facility.” 

According to Iran HRM the month of March has been overshadowed by the Coronavirus outbreak. The People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran announced on Monday that the coronavirus has already killed more than 19,500 Iranians across the country.

Prisoners in Iran have been particularly vulnerable because of the outbreak. They have been unable to avoid the virus, as once it enters a prison it is certain to spread among inmates in the very unhygienic conditions that they survive in.  

In Greater Tehran Penitentiary (Fashafuyeh), it has been reported that six prisoners have died after contracting Coronavirus. The inmates that have been infected are not separated from the rest of the prison population. 

The Iranian regime said back in February that prisoners would be granted furlough because of the health crisis. The head of the regime’s judiciary, Ebrahim Raisi, also said that new prisoners would not be accepted in the province of Tehran. However, this has not happened – there have been a number of new prisoners accepted.  

Once again, political prisoners face discrimination and it was announced that political prisoners would not be granted furlough.  

During the month of March, a number of prisoners went on hunger strike because of their continued detention and the filthy conditions they were being held in. Riots ensued and a number of prisoners were able to escape. All they wanted was to be protected against Coronavirus.

“Hundreds of prisoners went on hunger strike, asking the authorities 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,” read the report.  

In the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran, infected prisoners were not quarantined or treated. Yet, prison guards refused to enter cells and they did not even carry out the usual daily head counts. One prisoner described the appalling conditions they are held in, stating that they are served inadequately cooked rice or soya, with no vegetables or protein. The prisoners are packed into rooms that are nowhere near big enough for them to live comfortably, and they are denied medical care.  

The Coronavirus outbreak in Iran has become so serious because the regime failed to take suitable action. Other countries have acted in a timely manner and have taken steps to protect the population. The main reason for the dramatic and rapid spread of COVID-19 in Iran has been the cover-up orchestrated by the clerical regime. The Iranian regime was intended to ensure the participation of a large number of people in the state-run annual march marking the anniversary of the 1979 Revolution on February 11, as well as the parliamentary election sham scheduled for February 21.  

It has failed to adhere to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) regulations with regard to the assessment of events in the country.  

There are calls by many organizations and human rights activists around the world for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Special Rapporteur for the human rights situation in Iran to send a delegation to Iran to assess the situation and to take steps to improve conditions for the people, in particular the vulnerable such as the poor and the prisoners across the country.  

“Iran Human Rights Monitor calls on the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Special Rapporteur for the human rights situation in Iran to dispatch an international fact-finding mission to visit Iran prisons, and inquire about the conditions of prisoners. Iran HRM also calls on all international human rights organizations to undertake effective efforts to secure the release of all prisoners, especially political prisoners,” Iran HRM concluded.