UN expert decries 'pattern' of torture, abuse in Iranian prisons


Geneva (AFP)

Detainees in Iran appear to be systematically subjected to torture and abuse, including sexual violence, a UN report published Monday found, also condemning the denial of medical treatment to prisoners.

"Consistent reports received suggest a pattern of physical or mental pressure applied upon prisoners to coerce confessions, some of which are broadcast," the report said.

The report, which was drafted by Asma Jahangir, who was the top UN expert on the rights situation in Iran before dying of cardiac arrest at the age of 66 last month, is set to be debated before the UN Human Rights Council next week.

In the report, the leading Pakistani human rights advocate voiced deep concern over the recent harsh crackdown on protests in Iran, with more than 20 people killed and at least 1,000 arrested in a matter of days at the turn of the year.

She said she was "dismayed at the reports quoting members of the judiciary (saying) the protesters will be awarded the harshest of punishments," expressing concern over "the fate and conditions under which those arrested are being held".

Jahangir also voiced alarm over the general conditions of detention in Iran.

Although she was never permitted to visit Iran, she said in recent months she had met with at least six people who had fled the country "who still bore marks of torture" suffered in detention.

Jahangir also pointed to recent findings by the Freedom from Torture organisation of widespread torture during interrogations of detainees, either to extract information about them or their family and friends, and to force confessions.

- Electric shocks, amputations -

The torture methods documented included rape and other sexual violence, electric shocks, and amputations, she wrote, urging Tehran to stop such practices and hold perpetrators to account.

She suggested the government should "consider the use of modern technology to monitor detention centres to deter... torture."

Jahangir also voiced "grave concern (over) a pattern of denial of medical treatment to certain categories of detainees, especially prisoners of conscience, political prisoners and human rights defenders."

Pointing to a number of cases where there is an "imminent threat to life", she called on Tehran to urgently "investigate, address, and remedy such allegations".

She also said she remained troubled by the continuing large number of executions in Iran, with 482 executions reported in the country last year, including five juvenile offenders.

That number is down from 530 in 2016 and 969 in 2015, but the UN expert said she remained "alarmed", pointing to the "consistently reported pattern of serious violations of the right to fair trial and denial of due process" in the country.

Jahangir also urged Tehran to halt the use of harsh corporal punishment, pointing out that 50 flogging sentences and five amputation sentences were reportedly carried out in the country last year.