By Chioma Obinagwam
United Nations (UN) independent human rights experts, on Tuesday, called on Iranian authorities to immediately release a political activist, Mohammad Nourizad, said to be at risk of severe health complications and even death, if not provided with appropriate medical care.
UN told Confiance News in a statement on Tuesday.
Filmmaker Nourizad received multiple sentences in February last year, the statement revealed, including a seven-and-a-half-year prison term, after being convicted on charges relating to an open letter he and others signed calling for the Supreme Leader’s (Ali Khamenei) and for constitutional changes, according to a news release by the experts.
The Iranian authorities must release him immediately in line with medical opinions and give him free access to the required medical care and treatment
– Human rights experts
“We are seriously concerned at the mistreatment of Mohammad Nourizad and his continued imprisonment for expressing his opinion”, the rights experts said, noting that his “case is emblematic of the situation many Iranian political activists face in detention”.
They added that Mr. Nourizad’s continued detention despite medical professionals’ finding he cannot stay in prison given his serious health condition, and the resulting denial of adequate medical care, may amount to torture.
“He must be immediately released”, the experts said.
While in detention, Mr. Nourizad carried out hunger strikes and refused to take medications, most recently starting 10 March, to protest against his imprisonment and his family’s mistreatment by authorities. He also reportedly attempted suicide in prison, and began to self-harm as a form of protest on 19 February.
The experts previously raised concerns with the Iranian Government about Mr. Nourizad detention as well as access to medical care, according to the news release. The Government sent comments in response to the concerns raised.
In no medical state to remain in prison
According to the news release, Mr. Nourizad was diagnosed with a heart condition while in detention and frequently lost consciousness.
Last month, he was transferred to a hospital in capital Tehran, after fainting. When he regained consciousness, he found someone injecting him with an unknown substance, which he did not consent to or was informed of. He was also not provided any information, in spite of requesting officials what he was injected with and why.
“It is clear that Mr. Nourizad is not in a medical state to remain in prison,” the experts said, noting also that Legal Medical Organization of the Iranian judiciary and other medical professionals reportedly found that he should be released on medical grounds.
“The Iranian authorities must release him immediately in line with these medical opinions and give him free access to the required medical care and treatment.”
Many imprisoned for exercising their rights
The experts also said that many individuals in Iran are detained for merely exercising their right to freedom of expression. They reminded the Government that detention on such a basis is a clear violation of several of the country’s human rights obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
“We remain extremely disturbed by continued reports of detainees, including those imprisoned for exercising their human rights, being denied or unnecessarily obstructed from receiving adequate medical treatment or care”, the experts added.
“In extreme cases the denial of adequate treatment has resulted in death. The Iranian Government and judiciary has an obligation to ensure that all detainees receive proper treatment as prescribed not only under domestic law, but also under its international human rights obligations and the Nelson Mandela Rules on the minimum standards for the treatment of prisoners.”
The human rights experts making the call include the special rapporteurs on the situation of human rights in Iran; on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of expression; on rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; on the right to physical and mental health; and on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. The experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
Cover Photo: Mohammad Nourizad. Credit: IranWire