Amnesty International on Tuesday accused Iranian prison authorities of “shocking violations of the right to life” by denying health care to sick prisoners and refusing to investigate deaths in custody.
Their report describes the actions of prison officers as “arbitrary deprivation of life” which constitutes “extrajudicial execution if intent to kill”. At least 96 of the deaths reported in custody have occurred since 2017. It is estimated that 83% of those who died were “younger and middle-aged”, with more than 40 of the 96 deaths recorded being prisoners under the age of 50, which suggests that lives are being cut. short by health care denial.
The deaths were largely caused by the denial of medical care, which is not helped by Iranian prison regulations. Iran’s prison regulations do not require doctors in prisons with fewer than 500 prisoners and only require night doctors for prisons with more than 3,000 prisoners. In addition, the prison regulations allow prison authorities without medical expertise to “override or ignore the recommendations of health professionals”.
Beyond the deaths in prison, the report alleges that Iranian officials have refused to investigate the ongoing crisis. Amnesty International said “the lack of transparency around the death toll is a hallmark of the current crisis of impunity for the arbitrary deprivation of life in Iran.”
The Iranian prison organization is under the authority of the Iranian judiciary. Iran’s judiciary chief said at a press conference in 2021 “[Iran’s] prisoners, compared to prisoners around the world, have better conditions in various respects” and even stated that “in terms of leniency towards prisoners, our situation [in Iran] is unprecedented and nowhere else are the indulgences granted to prisoners comparable to those seen in Iran.”
Amnesty International has recommended an independent investigation and accountability mechanism to “break the chain of impunity”. However, the report notes that it “did not identify the exact official bodies involved in the denial of medical care to detainees”. Instead, the report attacks Iran’s prison regulations, which have contributed to staffing problems and have “emboldened prison officials to continue committing right to life violations by systematically denying prisoners life-saving medical care.” .