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Press releases Special Procedures

Iran: Ahmadreza Djalali nearing death in solitary confinement, torture must end now

18 March 2021

Persian version (PDF)

GENEVA (18 March 2021) — UN human rights experts* today demanded that Iranian authorities immediately release arbitrarily detained Iranian-Swedish academic Ahmadreza Djalali who is reportedly in a critical condition and near death after months of prolonged solitary confinement.

“Djalali’s situation is truly horrific. He has been held in prolonged solitary confinement for over 100 days with the constant risk of his imminent execution laying over his head,” the experts said, adding that prison officials are shining bright lights in his small cell 24 hours a day to deprive him of sleep.

“Medical issues have prevented him from eating properly, resulting in dramatic weight loss. His situation is so difficult that he reportedly has trouble speaking. We are shocked and distressed by the cruel mistreatment of Mr. Djalali,” the experts said.

Djalali was sentenced to death on spurious espionage charges in October 2017 after being arrested during a visit to Iran to attend workshops on disaster medicine. His conviction and sentence were based on a confession extracted under torture and after an unfair trial. The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found in a 2017 opinion that he was arbitrarily detained and called for his immediate release.

In November 2020, experts expressed alarm over Djalali’s imminent execution when he was abruptly taken into solitary confinement. Compounding that threat is the cruel and inhuman treatment by authorities, raising fears that, even if he is not executed, he may soon die in detention. 

“There is only one word to describe the severe physical and psychological ill-treatment of Djalali, and that is torture,” the experts said. “We denounce the actions of the Iranian authorities in the strongest terms, as well as their complete inaction despite our constant calls for him to be immediately released. The allegations against him are completely baseless and he should be allowed to return to his family in Sweden as soon as possible,” they said.

The experts added that Djalali’s prolonged solitary confinement is emblematic of its systematic use to punish and pressurise detainees, including to make forced confessions. On 1 March, civil society activists filed a lawsuit against the Iranian authorities concerning the unlawful use of solitary confinement, and the UN experts reminded the Government that the practice violates its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

“Mr. Djalali’s situation is not an isolated incident in the Islamic Republic of Iran, despite limitations to the use of solitary confinement under domestic law. We urge the Iranian Government, parliament and judiciary to halt the use of solitary confinement as a form of punishment and to impose a moratorium on the death penalty as a first step towards its abolition,” the experts said.


* The experts: Javaid RehmanSpecial Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran; Agnes CallamardSpecial Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Leigh Toomey (Chair-Rapporteur), Elina Steinerte (Vice-Chair), Miriam Estrada-Castillo Mumba MalilaSeong-Phil HongWorking Group on Arbitrary Detention; Nils MelzerSpecial Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

The Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. 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.

UN Human Rights, Country Page — Iran

For more information and media requests, please contact Mr. Ciaron Murnane ([email protected])

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