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Iran: UN rights experts appeal for urgent medical care for detained political prisoners and their release

GENEVA (10 April 2014) – A group of United Nations human rights experts today expressed alarm at the denial of medical care to two political prisoners in Iran who are at risk of dying in detention due to worsening health conditions.

The UN Special Rapporteurs on Iran, Ahmed Shaheed; on the right to health, Anand Grover; on torture, Juan Méndez; on freedom of expression, Frank La Rue, and on freedom of religion, Heiner Bielefeldt, urged the Iranian authorities to provide the prisoners with medical treatment.

The experts have made a number of urgent appeals to the Iranian Government about the denial of medical care and mistreatment of blogger Mohammad Reza Pourshajari and religious cleric Sayed Hossein Kazemeyni Boroujerdi. However, a formal response from the Government to the most recent appeals is yet to be received.

“We are gravely concerned about the worsening health condition of Mr. Pourshajari and Mr. Boroujerdi, who require urgent access to specialist medical treatment outside prison”, they said. “The prison authorities have so far denied this fundamental right, despite prison physicians recommending such urgent care.”

Mr. Pourshajari (aka Siamak Mehr) was arrested for blogging in September 2010, and is currently serving a four-year prison term in Ghezal Hesar prison in Karaj. He had a heart attack and has been suffering from prostate disease, and has kidney stones, high sugar level, breathing problems and high blood pressure.

Mr Boroujerdi, currently held in Evin Prison, was arrested for his religious beliefs on 8 October 2006 and is serving 11 years in prison. He suffers from Parkinson’s disease, diabetes and high blood pressure, breathing and walking problems, kidney stones and a heart condition.

The two men’s health condition, deemed to require urgent hospital transfer, has deteriorated due to physical abuse, poor prison conditions, prolonged solitary confinement, and other forms of repeated torture and ill-treatment.

The human rights experts reminded the Iranian Government of its obligations under international standards to respect the prisoners’ right to health and to ensure humane treatment, which requires transferring sick prisoners who need specialist medical care to a specialized institution or civil hospital.

“Mr. Pourshajari and Mr. Boroujerdi were imprisoned for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression” they said. “They should not only receive urgent medical treatment but also be released.”

The UN experts stressed that, “pending the release of prisoners of conscience, the Government should take immediate measures to investigate all allegations related to the denial of access to medical care, conditions of detention and the treatment of prisoners in compliance with international standards and to embark on more comprehensive prison reforms.”

The United Nations human rights experts are part of what it is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights, is the general name of the independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms of the Human Rights Council that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world.

They are charged by the Human Rights Council to monitor, report and advise on human rights issues. Currently, there are 37 thematic mandates and 14 mandates related to countries and territories, with 72 mandate holders. In March 2014, three new mandates were added. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity. Learn more: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/Pages/Welcomepage.aspx

Learn more, visit:
Human rights in Iran: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/CountriesMandates/IR/Pages/SRIran.aspx
Human rights and health: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Health/Pages/SRRightHealthIndex.aspx
Torture: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Torture/SRTorture/Pages/SRTortureIndex.aspx
Freedom of opinion and expression: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/FreedomOpinion/Pages/OpinionIndex.aspx
Freedom of religion or belief: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/FreedomReligion/Pages/FreedomReligionIndex.aspx

OHCHR Country Page – Iran: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AsiaRegion/Pages/IRIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Naveed Ahmad (+41 22 928 9477 / Nahmed@ohchr.org

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Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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