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Medical Negligence in Prisons Violates Iran's Domestic Laws

March 22, 2021
Amir Hossein Miresmaeili
5 min read
Gonabadi dervish Behnam Mahjoubi eventually died after falling into a coma. He had been taken to hospital too late
Gonabadi dervish Behnam Mahjoubi eventually died after falling into a coma. He had been taken to hospital too late
News recently surfaced that Iranian journalist and political activist had threatened suicide and harmed himself in prison
News recently surfaced that Iranian journalist and political activist had threatened suicide and harmed himself in prison

The recent news that Iranian journalist and political activist Mohammad Nourizad had threatened suicide and had harmed himself in prison as a protest against being denied treatment for heart disease has again highlighted the appalling human rights violations that routinely take place in Iran’s prisons.

The journalist's lawyer, Mohammad Hossein Aghasi, told IranWire’s sister site Journalism is Not A Crime that Nourizad was desperate for treatment and had deliberately cuton his arms and neck.

Over the years, there have been frequent reports of prison officials and security interrogators refusing the transfer of sick prisoners to hospitals or granting them medical leave. In February, Gonabadi dervish Behnam Mahjoubi fell into a coma after not being transferred to a hospital soon enough and later died. Prisoners including Nasrin Sotoudeh and Narges Mohammadi have gone on hunger strikes to protest against authorities’ failure to take them to the hospital. Over the last year, prison officials and the judiciary have also denied young activists Kasra Nouri and Kiumars Marzban medical leave.

Marzban, a satirical writer, was released from Evin Prison in February 2021 after two years in jail, but Kasra Nouri, a Gonabadi dervish who contributes to the Majzouban-e Nour website, remains in Greater Tehran Prison, also known as Fashafuyeh Prison.

According to the Prisons Organization's regulations and security and educational measures, prison officials have a duty to provide full medical facilities to prisoners, and if they require hospital services, they must be transferred to a hospital or granted medical leave. So why does this not happen? What reason do these security and judicial authorities have for applying their personal opinions to the treatment they impose on prisoners and for their disregard of the laws? Are security officials allowed to endanger the lives of political prisoners and journalists and deprive them of their vital rights? What should prisoners do to protest against the loss of their rights and health, and to what extent does the law protect them? Is there a way to complain about security officers or prison officials?

Disrespect for Iranian Laws

Lawyer and IranWire’s legal advisor Mohammed Oliaeifard told Journalism is not a Crime that, according to the regulations of the Prisons Organization, every prisoner must undergo a full medical examination upon entering prison, and if he or she suffers from an illness, they must be taken to the prison health service department, or transferred to an out-of-prison hospital.

"But it is surprising that in cases where the prisoners' illness is certain and has been confirmed by doctors, they still refuse to transfer them to a hospital or give them medical leave,” Oliaeifard said. “It is customary for prisoners held for non-political crimes to be allowed to be transferred to a hospital with the permission of the head of the prison and the judge supervising the prison. But for political activists and journalists in prison, it is necessary to get the favorable opinion of the prosecutor and the security agency who detained the prisoner in order to carry out medical treatment. The security interrogators or the prosecutors hardly issue any permits for medical leave or the hospitalization of journalists and political activists because they want to punish them."

The lawyer said that in the event of such an incident, the prisoner's family or lawyer should file a complaint with the head of the prison, the prosecutor, the detention facility or any person obstructing the treatment of the sick prisoner.

He advised that the head of the prison can be sued through the public prosecutor's office, and the prosecutor or the security agency can be sued in the military and judicial courts. "Although there is not much hope of hearing the voices of the oppressed or for a trial of security officials and judges, there is no choice but to use all potential legal tools at our disposal. The aim these officials have when they harass and play games with prisoners is to make people understand that their lives are in the hands of the regime, and if they want, they can deprive people of their basic and vital rights: food and treatment. Of course, sometimes political expediency also plays a role in such violence. For example, in the months leading up to the [presidential] election, these illegal behaviors and tortures are on the increase in order to silence critics."

Don’t Be Silent

Security officials' and prosecutors’ refusal to send critically ill and sick prisoners to hospitals or to grant them medical leave is obviously and blatantly a form of torture and should be protested against in any way possible, says law attorney Musa Barzin Khalifeloo.

“It is the duty of the Prisons Organization to treat imprisoned citizens, and even if a prisoner becomes ill, they are obliged to take him or her to a specialist or transfer them to a safe hospital so that they can be fully examined," he says. "But now we see that the transfer of people like Mr. Nourizad, who according to two doctors is in urgent need of heart surgery, is being refused. This level of indifference to the health of prisoners on the part of prison officials, judges and security officials is astonishing. Prisoners and their families should inform the public as much as possible about the oppression and the degree of deterioration of the prisoner's condition.” He says it’s important for them to speak out but does admit it doesn’t always benefit the prisoners in question. “Experience has shown that sometimes publishing news and creating protest campaigns on social media can lead to a backlash from judicial and security authorities."

He also explained that the provision of basic necessities to prisoners, including medical care, health care, access to telephone and communications, food and a suitable space to sleep, are among the duties of the Prisons Organization. ”If the government of the Islamic Republic is not able to provide services to prisoners, then why is the number of political prisoners and the mass detention of citizens increasing every day?"

Related coverage:

Filmmaker's Appeal Quashed as Authorities Target Wife and Son

Young Political Prisoner's Life Hangs in the Balance in Tehran

Drugs Fed to Jailed Protesters to Control Them

Assistant Prosecutor is Accused of Killing Dervish Prisoner

Torture and Medical Negligence Led to Prisoner’s Death


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