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Urgent Action Update: Human Rights Defender Faces Inhumane Prison Conditions (Iran: UA 250/14)

Urgent Action
January 19, 2017
 
Iranian prisoner of conscience and human rights defender Saeed Shirzad ended his 39-day hunger strike on 14 January after the authorities at Karaj’s Raja’i Shahr Prison made an oral promise to address his grievances about the inhumane treatment of political prisoners in the prison. He is now in need of specialized medical care.
 
Saeed Shirzad, a human rights defender sentenced to five years in prison, sewed his lips shut and started a hunger strike on 7 December 2016 in protest at what he described in a letter to judicial officials as “the quiet death of prisoners” at Raja’i Shahr Prison in the city of Karaj, near the capital, Tehran. The letter listed reasons for his hunger strike which included: the denial of medical care; beatings; the prison officials’ degrading treatment of inmates and their families during visits through invasive and abusive body searches; and poor air circulation due to the fact that windows in Section 4, Room 12, where political prisoners are held, were covered with metal sheets. On 14 January, Saeed Shirzad ended his 39-day strike after the prison’s Associate Prosecutor (Dadyar-e Zendan) met with him and promised to address his grievances. Saeed Shirzad’s health declined during his hunger strike. He was transferred to hospital on 12 January after his blood pressure dropped to dangerously low levels and he lost consciousness. He has lost about 10kg in weight and is suffering from muscle weakness, heart palpitations, and pain in his kidneys, chest and stomach.
 
On 4 January, a group of political prisoners wrote a letter in support of Saeed Shirzad, denouncing the authorities' failure to address the inhumane prison conditions. The most common complaints about the situation at Raja’i Shahr Prison include: the deliberate indifference of prison officials to prisoners’ medical needs; their refusal to transfer critically ill prisoners to hospitals outside the prison; long periods of time without hot water for washing and bathing; inadequate space; poor ventilation; unsanitary conditions; insect infestations near kitchen areas; insufficient cleaning supplies; and meagre rations of (poor quality) food. Such conditions are believed to have put inmates at risk of infection and various skin and respiratory diseases. Reports from Karaj’s Raja’i Shahr Prison also indicate a pattern of guards beating, verbally assaulting and sexually harassing political prisoners, particularly when transferring them to and from hospital and court.
 
1) TAKE ACTION
Write a letter, send an email, call, fax or tweet:
  • Calling on the Iranian authorities to release Saeed Shirzad immediately and unconditionally as his conviction and sentence stems solely from his peaceful work as a human rights defender;
  • Calling on them to ensure that, pending his unconditional release, he is granted access to adequate specialized medical care in a hospital outside prison, as the care he needs it is not available inside;
  • Calling on them to take immediate steps to protect prisoners at Raja’i Shahr Prison from torture and other ill-treatment, ensuring that they are treated humanely in accordance with international law and standards, including the Nelson Mandela Rules, and allow national and international monitors to conduct inspection visits to Raja’i Shahr Prison.

Contact below official by 2 March, 2017:

Office of the Supreme Leader
Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations
622 Third Avenue, 34th Floor
New York, NY 10017
Ayatollah Sayed ‘Ali Khamenei
Salutation: Your Excellency
 
2) LET US KNOW YOU TOOK ACTION
 
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
 
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