HEALTH IS A HUMAN RIGHT
The Iranian authorities must immediately and unconditionally release hundreds of prisoners of conscience amid grave fears over the transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19) in Iran’s prisons. The authorities should take measures to protect the health of all prisoners and urgently consider releasing pre-trial detainees and those who may be at particular risk of severe illness or death.
While Amnesty International is aware of measures announced by the Iranian authorities to release some prisoners in response to the outbreak, the organization is concerned that hundreds of prisoners of conscience remain jailed. They include human rights defenders, and others detained solely for peacefully expressing their rights to freedom of expression, association and/or assembly. They should not be in detention at all.
In several prisons across the country, prisoners have tested positive for COVID-19, raising concerns for other prisoners held in the same wards. According to the World Health Organization, some groups of people appear to be at particular risk of severe illness or death, including older individuals and people with pre-existing medical conditions. Iran’s prison population includes such groups.
ACCESS TO CARE
Additionally, some prisoners have been systematically denied adequate medical care, which could leave them more vulnerable to the effects of the virus if they contract it. Amnesty International has documented the denial of adequate medical care as a punitive measure against prisoners of conscience. For example, Narges Mohammadi, an Iranian human rights defender whom Amnesty continues to advocate for, suffers from a blood clot in her lungs. For her, contracting COVID-19 could be fatal.
Many prisoners across the country have pleaded with officials to address overcrowded, unhygienic and unsanitary conditions in prisons that put them at greater risk of COVID-19 infections. There are also reports that some prisoners have not been provided with enough soap or other sanitary products. Many families have also raised concerns for the wellbeing of jailed relatives and believe that the Iranian authorities should be systematically testing prisoners who may be showing symptoms of COVID-19.