In a recent press statement, U.S. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said the United States is “concerned over recent reports that Kurdish activist Mohammed Seddigh Kaboudvand and human rights defender Nargess Mohammadi are suffering from rapidly deteriorating health while in prison.” She noted that Mr. Kaboudvand has been on hunger strike since May 26 to protest authorities’ refusal to allow him to visit his ill son; and Ms. Mohammadi has been denied proper medical care for previous health problems. Both are reportedly in critical condition.
Ahmad Shaheed, the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Iran said Iranian prisons “fall well below the minimum standards proclaimed by the United Nations.” Abusive conditions include “severe overcrowding, inadequate access to water, insufficient prisoner segregation practices, extremely poor quality and unhygienic facilities, hazardous ventilation conditions, insufficient access to medical services, paltry nutritional provisions and the perpetuation of violence and use of prisoners to facilitate punishment.”
Political prisoners, held because of their beliefs or attempts to exercise their right to freedom of expression, often suffer additional maltreatment. The U.S. State Department in its most recent human rights report noted that political prisoners in Iran were “routinely held. . . in solitary confinement and. . .were at greater risk of torture and abuse in detention.” That abuse included severe beatings, rape, and withholding critical health care.
In its 2012 report, Amnesty International said that in Iran “up to 12 people reportedly died in custody in suspicious circumstances, including where medical care may have been denied or delayed.” The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran recently called the Iranian government’s denial of medical care to prisoners of conscience “systematic.”
“We call upon Iranian authorities,” said State Department spokesperson Nuland, “to immediately release all political prisoners and to uphold its own laws and international obligations that guarantee freedom of expression, religion, opinion, and assembly for all citizens.”