In a letter to the special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, the families of a number of political prisoners currently on hunger strike have expressed concerns over the health of their loved ones in prison. They have urged the investigator “to travel to Iran and monitor the situation of the twelve prisoners … and the condition of other political prisoners in Iran.”
A former foreign minister of the Maldives, Ahmed Shaheed, was recently named United Nations human rights investigator on Iran, the first in nearly a decade. The UN Human Rights Council established the independent post of special rapporteur on human rights in Iran on March 24.
“We respectfully request that you urge the Iranian authorities to provide proper medical supervision in prisons and ensure that they help the political prisoners rather than expediting their deaths,” continued the letter. “We request that you speak to the prisoners on hunger strike to learn their demands and the conditions for ending their protest. The authorities in Iran and the international community will benefit from this information that is currently suppressed within the confines of the prison.”
On 18 June, twelve political prisoners in ward 350 of Evin prison began an “indefinite” hunger strike to protest the recent killings of two other political prisoners, Haleh Sahabi and Reza Hoda Saber, and the ongoing human rights abuses in the country. Days later, six other political prisoners in Rajaei Shahr prison also went on hunger strike in solidarity with their comrades in captivity.
According to opposition website Kaleme, at least five of the inmates in Evin have been transferred to the prison infirmary following a sharp decline in their health.
The letter signed by the families of Ahmad Amooei, Isa Saharkhiz, Mohsen Aminzadeh, Emad Bahavar, Ghorban Behzadian-Nejad, Khosto Dalir-Sani, Feizollah Arabsorkhi, Abolfazl Ghadyani, Mohammad Reza Moghiseh, Abdollah Momeni and Masoud Bastani, is as follows:
His Excellency Ahmed Shaheed
The UN human right council special rapporteur to Iran
We would like to extend our good wishes for your nomination to the post of United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Iran. You were appointed to this position as we Iranians have encountered new and heighted types of suppression. Planned, merciless and unprecedented suppression for approximately two years has been unrelenting. The only way to avert catastrophe at this point is the active involvement of the international community and human rights institutions. We the families of the twelve prisoners listed below hereby inform you that they have started a hunger strike as of 17 June.
This hunger strike has been commenced to draw attention to the death of Hoda Saber last week. Saber was one of the most well known prisoners arrested in connection to the disputed election of 2009. He died 8 days after starting a hunger strike. His death was described and attested to by 64 of his fellow prisoners. Hoda Saber’s death occurred after his medical condition deteriorated due to lack of conventional care and treatment. The prison staff finally transferred him to the local hospital of the Evin prison with the considerable delay. According to eye witnesses the patient was beaten in spite of his having obvious symptoms of a heart attack. Subsequently, he was transferred to the city hospital when his medical condition had deteriorated and he was nearly dead. Hoda Saber’s family was informed of his death one day after the fact. The testimony of his fellow prisoners regarding the intentional neglect of his medical condition by the prison staff and their abuse is documented and available online. Also fellow prisoners can be interviewed concerning the 8 days of torment that ended with the death of Hoda Saber.
The sequence of event that led to the death of Hoda saber proves that Iran’ policy toward political prisoners on hunger strike has changed. The examples of the past, for instance in the case of, Akbar Ganji and Mohsen Sazgara shows that in the past the medical authority would try to prevent the death of prisoners. By contrast, today prison authorities seem to expedite the death of their prisoners who go on hunger strike. In the case of Hoda Saber they did not even allow him to receive his friends’ letters calling on him to end his hunger strike.
What has impelled us to write this letter at the outset of your position is that the situation of our family members in prison, all of whom are the senior political figures, is appallingly precarious.
The Hoda Saber case shows that the twelve prisoners who are under hunger strike are in mortal danger. Nor are the twelve prisoners who have gone on hunger strike the only prisoners who have been deprived from their human rights and subjected to physical and psychological pressures.
We call upon you to travel to Iran and monitor the situation of the twelve prisoners listed below and the condition of other political prisoners in Iran.
We respectfully request that you urge the Iranian authorities to provide proper medical supervision in prisons and ensure that they help the political prisoners rather than expediting their deaths.
We request that you speak to the prisoners on hunger strike to learn their demands and the conditions for ending their protest. The authorities in Iran and the international community will benefit from this information that is currently suppressed within the confines of the prison.
We thank you for your efforts.