UN experts voice ‘deep concern’ over Iran’s ‘consistent pattern’ of denying life-saving medical treatment to detainees

UN Photo/Loey Felipe The flag of the Islamic Republic of Iran flying at United Nations headquarters in New York.

This article is brought to you in association with the United Nations.


Despite repeated calls, Iran continues to deny medical treatment to detainees in what amounts to “a consistent pattern”, according to eight UN human rights experts, in a statement on Wednesday.

“Over several months we have communicated to the Iranian Government our deep concerns about the physical and mental integrity of detainees,” the experts said in a statement.  “Despite Government assurances, we are frustrated to still receive reports of denial of medical treatment, including in life-threatening situations”.

The experts said the denial of medical treatment for human rights activist Arash Sadeghi, reportedly diagnosed with bone cancer, was particularly alarming. He has been denied care at Raja’i Shahr Prison following an operation in September 2018.

Mr. Sadeghi was sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment by a Revolutionary Court in August 2015 on charges of “assembly and collusion in the form of propaganda against the State”, “insulting the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran” and “publishing lies in cyberspace”.

According to the experts, his activism involved social media posts and communications with journalists and rights defenders abroad, regarding the human rights situation in Iran.

“These no longer appear to be isolated incidents, but a consistent pattern” the UN experts continued, pointing to their grave concern for Ahmadreza Djalali, a Swedish-Iranian dual national medical doctor, sentenced to death on corruption charges for allegedly spying in Iran. Although medical tests indicate he may have cancer, Dr. Djalali has been denied access to appropriate healthcare in Evin Prison.

In the same prison, Austrian-Iranian dual national Kamran Ghaderi is serving a 10-year sentence for espionage and, despite a tumour in his leg, has also been denied appropriate medical treatment.

While both prisoners have been attended to for other conditions, the experts expressed their concern that treatment came intermittently after delays, and that specialists have yet to follow up.

And denying medical treatment has not been limited to men. British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and activist Narges Mohammadi, have also continued to be denied appropriate healthcare.

“We urge the Iranian Government to immediately and unconditionally provide all the concerned individuals access to the appropriate medical treatment and care, as well as to other detainees who are in need of appropriate healthcare,” the eight experts said.

More than healthcare

They also highlighted numerous reports that the physical and mental integrity of prisoners in Iran are being further jeopardized by unsafe and unsanitary detention conditions, including overcrowding; contaminated food and water; rodent and insect infestations; and inadequate temperature controls.

Moreover, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention had previously found and notified the Government that Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe, Ms. Mohammadi, Mr. Sadeghi and Dr. Djalali are being arbitrarily detained and called for their immediate release.

“We reiterate our calls for the immediate release of human rights defenders and all other individuals who have been found to be arbitrarily detained, as well as for the release of all others in Iranian detention facilities who are currently held arbitrarily,” the experts concluded.

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