Iran: torture and corporal punishment mandated by law
Torture and corporal punishment are common practices in Iran’s prisons and also mandated by law.
The regime denies use of torture in Iranian prisons despite thousands of reports since the early 80’s that prove torture has been used to extract forced confessions from prisoners or to break the morale of political prisoners.
Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, Khomeini’s heir apparent, wrote in a letter to him on October 9, 1986: “Do you know many have been killed under torture by interrogators? Do you know many prisoners have been blinded, deafened, and paralyzed or are suffering from chronic pains due to severe torture?”
Article 38 of Iran’s Constitution states, “All forms of torture …are forbidden,” and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Iran is a State Party, states in Article 7: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
Nonetheless, accounts from former prisoners reveal common practice of rape, beatings, mock executions and other forms of torture in Iran’s prisons, especially against dissidents. Prisoners frequently reported to have died under torture.
Torture in Iran under the guardianship of an Islamic Jurist, or Velayat-e Faqih, cannot be compared to torture in any other country. The regime in Iran religiously justifies torture as “Tazir” (meaning punishment).
The clerical regime has invented more than 70 methods of torture, including severing hands and feet, gouging eyes, pressing prisoners’ heads with vise, and rape (against both women and men).
The Iranian regime is infamous for torturing and executing opposition members and dissidents. They executed or tortured to death thousands of persons affiliated with opposition groups during the 1980s.
The 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners, mostly members and supporters of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, is one of the conspicuous episodes of Iran’s execution agenda.
The survivors of the 1988 massacre talk of this era as the darkest period in Iranian prisons with the most brutal forms of torture, one of which was the systematic rape of female political prisoners before their execution.
All the crimes of the past continue to persist at present.
During protests that erupted in December 2017, dozens of prisoners were tortured to death in Iranian prisons with the regime claiming that they were drug addicts who had died in prison due to lack of drugs or had committed suicide.
In light of widespread practice of torture in all Iranian prisons, and the fact that hundreds of prisoners have died under vicious torture, not mentioning the ones who have lost their mental balance as a result of torture, the international community must no longer allow the perpetrators of the 1988 massacre in Iran enjoy impunity and hold high positions in the government and judiciary.
Iran Human Rights Monitor calls for immediate abolition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading punishments in Iran. We urge all international organizations and human rights activists to take effective measures to put an end to merciless torture practiced in Iranian prisons.
Although numerous forms of torture are practiced in Iranian prisons, Iran Human Rights Monitor has provided a brief review of the most common methods used against prisoners in 2018 and 2019 in this report.
At least 121 people received flogging sentences
At least 11 individuals were flogged in prison or in public
There were at least one reported instances of hand amputation
At least eight individuals died under torture
First eight months of 2019
At least 100 people received flogging sentences
At least 11 individuals were flogged in prison or in public
At least six individuals died under torture
At least four prisoners died as a result of being denied medical treatment
Denial of medical treatment
Prisoners have sometimes been able to relay information from inside prison about tortures that they or their cellmates have endured.
One of the most common methods of torture is the denial of treatment to ailing prisoners, even those suffering from cancer.
According to Amnesty International, withholding medical treatment is a well-established tactic utilized by Iranian authorities to exert pressure upon political prisoners, especially those who continue activism from inside the nation’s jails or strive to expose the conditions that political prisoners and other detainees face.
Political prisoner Saeid Shirzad suffering from severe kidney damage
Political prisoner Saeid Shirzad is suffering from severe damage to both his kidneys. His right kidney has shrunk by 25%. Saeid Shirzad needs urgent sophisticated medical treatment but has been banned from going to the hospital despite his family having paid for his treatment.
His condition has deteriorated as a result.
Shirzad has been sentenced to six years of prison. He was sentenced to another six months of prison for “insulting the leader” and “disrupting prison order” for his role in the prison protest against the forced transfer of political prisoner to a maximum security ward in the prison.
The political prisoner has also gone on hunger strike in prison and has been mistreated and beaten by prison agents.
Political prisoner Hassan Sadeghi in danger of going blind
Political prisoner Hassan Sadeghi was tortured upon his arrest by intelligence agents. The tortures resulted in several illnesses including glaucoma. He has previously had eye surgery but is in danger of losing his eyesight. Despite this, he is banned from receiving professional medical care.
He is also suffering from an infection in his stomach and small intestine and a severe gastric ulcer.
Sadeghi was detained at the age of 16 in 1981 for supporting the MEK and was released after six years. He was severely tortured during that time and suffered severe damage to both his heels. He is still suffering from the consequences of the torture inflicted on him in the 80’s.
Sadeghi is currently serving his 15-year prison terms. His wife, Fatemeh Mosana, has also been sentenced to 15 years of prison.
Political prisoner Majid Assadi suffering from severe digestive and liver problems, severe spinal disk inflammation
According to prison medics, political prisoner Majid Assadi has to receive special hospital treatment every month. He is suffering from numerous digestive tract illnesses including gastric and duodenal ulcers as well as liver cysts and spinal disk inflammation.
The 36-year-old prisoner has been sentenced to six years of prison for “assembly and collusion against national security” and “spreading propaganda against the state”.
Security prisoner Shahram Mansourpour in need of urgent surgery
Security prisoner Shahram Mansourpour has served 18 years of his life in prison term without a prison leave. He has been suffering from a spinal disk inflammation and problems in his back muscles. He is banned from going to the hospital despite his urgent need of surgery and medical treatment.
Political prisoner Arash Sadeghi denied treatment despite bone cancer and loss of arm motion
Human rights activist Arash Sadeghi is suffering from a rare form of bone cancer. He received delayed treatment which was left unfinished.
Despite removing a tumor in his hand more than five months before, prison officials have banned him from receiving chemotherapy.
He is now suffering from a severe infection in his hand where he received surgery and has lost his nerves in his right hand. He is also suffering from severe digestive problems as a result of a 71-day hunger strike in protest to his wife’s arrest and can only digest soup.
The young human rights activist has been sentenced to 19 years of prison.
Elderly political prisoner Mohammad Banazadeh Amirkhizi suffering from Meniscus Tear
Political prisoner Mohammad Banazadeh Amirkhizi has been banned from receiving medical attention despite his poor health. The 72-year-old prisoner is suffering from a meniscus tear in his leg which has been neglected by prison officials and the prosecutor. He is also suffering from prostate issues, sleep disturbances and forgetfulness.
Amirkhizi was sentenced to 11 years of prison for “assembly and collusion against national security” and “spreading propaganda against the government”.
Political prisoner Hamzeh Savari suffering from painful knee tumor in need of urgent surgery
Hamzeh Savari is suffering from severe pain from a tumor behind his right knee which has impaired his walking ability but has been denied the right to go the hospital.
Doctors have said that if he does not have the tumor surgically removed it would lead to more serious problems in the future.
The young prisoner was arrested at the age of 16 in 2005 and was sentenced to life in prison on charges of “acting against national security”, “enmity with God” and “corruption on earth”.
Kurdish political prisoner Mohammad Nazari denied hospitalization for stomach tumor
Imprisoned for more than 25 years, Kurdish-Iranian political prisoner Mohammad Nazari has been denied hospitalization to receive tests for a tumor in his stomach.
Nazari, 48, has been incarcerated since being arrested by agents of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) on May 30, 1994. He was ultimately imprisoned for being a member of the outlawed Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan.
He had been tortured during interrogation and forced to accept the charge but he later recanted.
Torture and ill treatment of prisoners
According to Iran’s prison laws, prisoners should be separated according to their crimes, a law that is not implemented by the Iranian regime as a way of putting more pressure on political prisoners.
Political prisoners are kept alongside dangerous criminals and are regularly beaten and threatened, most times, on orders of prison authorities, by nonpolitical prisoners.
For example, the Greater Tehran Central Penitentiary was built in 2015 primarily for holding suspects and inmates convicted of drug-related offenses. But the judiciary has also used it to unlawfully incarcerate peaceful activists and dissidents.
Most recently, a female civil rights activist was beaten by a non-political inmate who has the support of an official in Qarchak prison near Tehran. Reports indicate that civil rights activist Yasaman Ariaie was attacked by a prisoner detained for a violent crime on Sunday and was injured in the shoulder blade.
On July 6, labor rights activists Neda Naji and Atefeh Rangriz were beaten by inmates and prison guards and sustained serious injuries.
According to reports from Zahedan Central Prison in Iran’s Baluchistan province, the prison guards has broken the legs of political prisoner Arzhang Davoodi. The reports pertain that the prison guards have thrown him off a staircase and broken his legs while torturing him.
Davoodi was transferred to Zahedan prison in January 2019. Since then, he has been kept him in the prison’s quarantine under constant, severe torture. Davoodi went on hunger strike. He was subsequently summoned to the office of the prison’s chief while his hands and feet were enchained. When he left the room the deputy chief of the president shoved him and threw him off the stairs of the second floor.
Having chains on his feet and hands, the 65-year-old prisoner wasn’t able to maintain his balance and fell hard. As a result, he broke his right thigh bone, his left tibia. He also dislocated a shoulder and suffered from bruises to his spinal cord.
Medical diagnoses have shown that he will not be able to walk for the rest of his life. Presently he can barely walk with a walker.
In June 2019, political prisoner Alireza Shirmohammadali was murdered in the Greater Tehran Central Penitentiary after being unlawfully held in a ward with inmates convicted of violent crimes.
Days later, his cellmate wrote in a letter from prison that the internet activist was murdered on orders of prison officials.
The 21-year-old political prisoner was sentenced to eight years of prison on charges of “blasphemy”, “insulting the founder of the Islamic Republic”, “insulting the leader” and “spreading propaganda” against the regime.
Torturing and extracting forced confessions from prisoners
Torture in Iranian prisons has always been rampant, aimed at extracting false confessions to be broadcast on state television.
The Iranian government favors this method for two main reasons. First, to legitimize its claims that activists are all agents of foreign countries. Second, to break the will of those who oppose the policies of the government.
Recently, a senior Iranian official confessed to torturing and extracting forced confessions from prisoners.
Ali Rabiei, the spokesperson of Iranian regime president Hassan Rouhani, described the torturing and extracting forced confessions from 13 prisoners and executing one of them as a “professional mistake” of another department. The prisoners were being interrogated on their alleged involvement in the assassination of the Iranian regime’s nuclear scientists. After torturing them, the regime broadcasted their forced confessions from state TV.
While the torture of these prisoners continued for a full year after Rouhani assumed office, Rabiei said, “This did not happen during our administration, and I had no access or authority on the dossier to say that I had intervened.”
Rabiei, who has a long history serving the Iranian regime’s intelligence apparatus, further said, “According to information that exists, there were a number of people who confessed on this case, and I spoke to some officials and they said that one of the confessions was true. But regretfully, some of the measures were unprofessional, and the people who worked on this file were not espionage experts. They were from other domains.”
In 2016, Amnesty International published a comprehensive report on how the regime uses forced confession and propaganda to dehumanize death row prisoners.
In an episode that highlights Iranian authorities’ use of torture to extract confessions, Saba Kord Afshari was repeatedly pressured to make video confessions, something that she strongly resisted and refused to do. The Intelligence Ministry even arrested her mother, Raheleh Ahmadi, to bring further pressure and force her to force her make false confessions.
Ms. Kord Afshari was first arrested in August 2018 during street protests in Tehran. She was taken to Qarchak Prison and detained in limbo. Then, she was sentenced to one year in prison for “disruption of public order” and was transferred to the women’s ward of Evin Prison.
Saba Kord Afshari was released in February 2019, but was arrested again on June 1 and has been detained in prison since then.
She was sentenced to 24 years in prison in August 2019 and is presently detained in Evin Prison.