UN Expresses Alarm Over Health of Political Prisoners on Hunger Strike in Iran

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran has expressed alarm over the health of several Iranian political prisoners on hunger strike.

Asma Jahangir noted that at least eight prisoners of conscience are currently on prolonged hunger strike in Iran, who are suffering from life-threatening health complications.

The prisoners are contesting the legality of their imprisonment. They are Saeed Shirzad, Ali Shariati, Mohammad Reza Nekounam, Hassan Rastegari Majd, Mehdi Koukhian, Nizar Zakka, and Mohammed Ali Taheri.

Ali Shariati, who has been on hunger strike since 31 October 2016, is serving five years for peaceful activism including a non-violent protest to condemn acid attacks against women in Iran.

Children’s rights activist, Saeed Shirzad, who is also serving five years in prison, went on hunger strike on 7 December 2016
Mohammed Ali Taheri began his hunger strike on 28 September; his whereabouts remain a mystery since his reported transfer to Baghiatollah Military Hospital in October.

Hassan Rastegari Majd is reported to be in solitary confinement in retaliation for his hunger strike.

Jahangir’s call has been backed by the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, Michel Forst; and the Chair-Rapporteur of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Roland Adjovi.

Jahangir said: “I am deeply concerned about the continuous detention of human rights defenders in Iran, who have been tried on the basis of vaguely defined offences and heavily sentenced following trials marred with due process violations.”

She continued: “They are left with no other option but to put their life at risk to contest the legality of their detention.”

President Rouhani signed the Citizen Rights Charter into law just a few days ago; which enshrines basic human rights like the right to life, freedom of opinion, and freedom of assembly in Iran.

As such, Jahangir urged the Iranian Government to release all political prisoners who had been imprisoned for peacefully expressing their opinion and promoting human rights.

A ninth prisoner, Arash Sadeghi, ended his 71-day hunger strike last week following the temporary release of his wife, Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee, from prison. He is still being denied access to medical care.

Jahangir said: “Both Mr. Sadeghi and Ms. Ebrahimi Iraee are human rights defenders who have been imprisoned for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and association.”

She called on the Iranian authorities to allow Sadeghi access to specialized health care in a hospital. She said that only this would comply with international human rights standards and medical ethics.

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