HRANA Report: COVID-19 Vaccinations Underway in Iranian Prisons

A number of prisons, including Evin in Tehran, Rajai Shahr in Karaj, Qarchak in Varamin, Lakan in Rasht, Urmia in Urmia, and Qom Coastal Prison, have been examined as a statistical sample in this report.

According to HRANA, the news agency of Human Rights Activists, the vaccination of inmates in different prisons throughout the country has started this month.

A number of prisons, including Evin in Tehran, Rajai Shahr in Karaj, Qarchak in Varamin, Lakan in Rasht, Urmia in Urmia, and Qom Coastal Prison, have been examined as a statistical sample in this report.

According to reports received by HRANA, in some prisons in the country, prisoners have been forced to receive the Iranian vaccine “Barekat”, and many others have refused to receive the Barekat vaccine due to doubts about production conditions and the lack of WHO approval. In some prisons, vaccination has been partially abandoned due to the lack of enough dosage per the Ministry of Health.

Although this action of the Prisons Organization has given a bit of hope to the prisoners and their families, reports received by HRANA from various prisons across the country indicate that -regardless of the quality and type of vaccine used- a small percentage of inmates have been vaccinated and that most of the inmates still have not been vaccinated against COVID.

Prisoners in the women’s ward of Lakan Prison in Rasht were vaccinated with the Barekat vaccine. According to an informed source, the vaccination process has started in this prison in late July this year; first the prison officials, then the male prisoners, and finally the female prisoners have been vaccinated.

As of this writing, a small percentage of inmates in Urmia Prison are vaccinated. An informed source about the vaccination process in this prison told HRANA, “At first, the Iranian vaccine Barekat was sent for Urmia prison, but prisoners refused to inject, then a small number of Chinese vaccines arrived which only was enough for a few. Though the vaccine was given to all prisoners in the political prison, and any of them who wished was vaccinated.”

According to the source, prison officials, along with a limited number of other detainees were vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Since mid-August of this year, some prisoners in various wards of Evin Prison have received the first dose of the vaccine. Initially, the vaccination was carried out with the Barakat vaccine, but this process was stopped due to the refusal of many prisoners to inject the Iranian vaccine. A few days later, some prisoners were injected with the Chinese vaccine Sinopharm. According to an informed source, in many wards of the prison, even prisoners with underlying diseases who are at risk of infection have not been vaccinated yet.

Political prisoners in Rajai Shahr Prison in Karaj have also been injected with the first dose of the Sinopharm vaccine. According to an informed source, in other wards of the prison, vaccination was going on based on the age priority and people with underlying diseases until prison officials announced that the vaccination would be halted and postponed until the Ministry of Health and the Prisons Organization were able to provide the vaccine.

The HRANA investigation shows that most of the prisoners in Qarchak Prison in Varamin have been injected with the Sinopharm vaccine, but new inmates, whose numbers are very high, are still not vaccinated as there are not enough vaccines for them.

In Qom Coastal Prison, only the clergy prisoners being held in the special ward for clergies have been fully vaccinated. According to an informed source, 20 prisoners in this ward, along with a small number of prisoners from other wards, have been vaccinated so far. Prisoners in Bushehr Prison in Bushehr Province have not yet received any vaccine.

These are the reports from prisons while in early August, Mohammad Mehdi Haj Mohammadi, head of the Prisons Organization, claimed on his Twitter account that 50 percent of the country’s prisoners had been vaccinated.

Although the prisoners’ vaccination could help to control the spread of coronavirus in prisons, the effectiveness of vaccination is still unclear as spaces in prisons are closed, pre-and post-vaccination health protocols are not met, principles of quarantine are not observed, and prison populations are large. Also, some prisoners have received the Iranian Barekat vaccine, whose effectiveness is highly questionable.

The negligence of the authorities towards the situation of sick prisoners, lack of proper medical care in prisons, the strictness of the authorities in sending prisoners to medical leave and hospitals, and the lack of adequate sanitary facilities in prisons have all contributed to and intensified the spread of the disease.

 

Javid Rahman’s Latest Report on the Human Rights Situation in Iran has been Published

Javid Rahman, Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights in Iran, has published his latest report, which is scheduled to be presented at the next meeting of the UN Human Rights Council.

According to HRANA, the news agency of Human Rights Activists, various issues have been addressed, such as the COVID-19 crisis, the alarming rate of death sentence issuance, and the Islamic government’s lack of accountability for human rights violations in the country.

According to the report, journalists and civil society activists were under pressure from security agencies as this year’s presidential election approached. Those who called for a boycott of the election were detained or harassed by security forces.

Expressing concern over the non-observance of the preconditions for free elections, Javid Rahman called for fundamental reform of Iran’s electoral laws.

The rapporteur reiterated the lack of accountability of individuals and institutions that have violated the rights of Iranian citizens, such as the violence in November 2019, and the downing of a Ukrainian 752 aircraft, and he added that restitution to the families of individuals killed in the flight can in no way replace serious prosecution and punishment of perpetrators.

He further expressed concern about the impact of international sanctions on the state of the Corona epidemic and called the government’s efforts to reduce the impact of the crisis on the social and economic life of citizens insufficient.

You can read the complete report here. 

COVID-19 Spreads in Mahabad Prison in West Azerbaijan Province

Observations of symptoms of the coronavirus among inmates has raised concerns about the virus’s spread within the public ward of Mahabad Prison

According to HRANA, the news agency of Human Rights Activists, quoting Mukrian News Agency, several inmates have been denied medical treatment despite having deteriorating health and symptoms of the coronavirus.

Meanwhile, prison officials have refused to provide even symptomatic inmates with COVID tests, and several prisoners in the public ward of the prison have severe symptoms.

“Several prisoners suffer from Corona and are in critical condition,” the report quoted a prisoner as saying.

 

Akram Rahimi Dies of Coronary Heart Disease in Amol Prison after being Unable to Pay Required Cash Bail

According to HRANA, the news agency of Human Rights Activists, an inmate in the women’s ward of Amol Prison died on the evening of Saturday, August 14 of coronary heart disease.

The prisoner, who has been identified by HRANA as 40-year-old Akram Rahimi, suffered from severe heart and lung disease, but was being kept in detention due to her inability to pay the required cash bail.

“Ms. Rahimi contracted Corona some time ago along with several other prisoners,” an informed source told HRANA. “After her condition worsened, she was regularly sent to the hospital, but due to lack of space, she was not accepted and received the same basic treatment services, ie serum injection in the hospital garden, and was transferred to prison again until she died two nights ago.

Lakan Prison Officials Turn off Air Conditioning in Women’s Ward and Cut Inmates’ Quarantines Short

Following the transfer of 9 new female prisoners to the quarantine ward of Lakan Prison in Rasht, 15 residents of the quarantine ward were transferred to the public ward before the end of their quarantine period.

According to HRANA, the news agency of Human Rights Activists, air conditioning in the women’s ward was also turned off for at least 8 hours during the day. The lack of air conditioning, coupled with steadily rising summer temperatures have created conditions under which it is nearly impossible for the inmates to wear masks.

According to an informed source, after protesting, prisoners were told that they would be sent directly to public wards without quarantine, even if other new entrances arrived.

It is worth mentioning that civil activist Athena Daemi, who was deported from Evin Prison to Lakan on March 17, 2010, was kept in quarantine for 23 days.

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Mojgan Kavousi Finishes 9th Day of Hunger Strike in Evin Prison

Yesterday, May 24, was the ninth consecutive day of hunger strike for political prisoner Mojgan Kavousi.

According to HRANA, the news agency of Human Rights Activists, Kavousi has been on hunger strike since May 16 in protest of prison officials’ arbitrary behavior sending prisoners on leave during the outbreak of COVID-19.

45-year-old Kavousi is the daughter of Akbar and mother of two girls. Ms. Kavousi is a researcher, translator, and follower of the Yarsan faith.

The activist was arrested by security forces at her home in Nowshahr during the nationwide November Protests of 2019. She was released on a bail and later  sentenced to two years in prison on charges of “inciting the people to disrupt the order and security of the country”.  Ms. Kavousi was banned from leaving the country in September 2019, according to the Nowshahr Intelligence Office.

In May 2020, Kavousi was summoned to the women’s ward of Evin Prison to serve out her sentence, where she has been held since. Kavousi suffers from gastrointestinal disease, hemorrhoids, and cardiac arrhythmias. Given her previous conditions, a hunger strike of this duration could cause permanent damage.

COVID-19 Fear in Iran’s Prisons: Iran Must Do More to Protect Prisoners

HRANA – Nearly half a year has passed since Iranian officials acknowledged the grave threat posed by the novel coronavirus to the country’s prison population. In late February 2020, high-ranking officials in the prison and judicial systems announced new protocols to head off a health catastrophe in the country’s chronically overcrowded and underfunded penal system, including furloughs for certain classes of prisoners, a reduction in intake of new prisoners, daily rounds of disinfection, hygiene training for prisoners and prison staff, distribution of hygienic supplies, and the formation of full-time task forces to monitor prisoners’ health.

In April of 2020, Abdorrahman Boroumand Center for Human Rights in Iran (ABC) released a report, COVID-19, Fear in Iran’s Prisons, detailing the scope of a COVID-19 crisis that was spreading across multiple prisons despite administrative measures taken to prevent it — including the release of thousands of prisoners — as well as the unrest sparked in late March by heightening fears of the virus and the subsequent violent crackdown by security forces.

In its analysis of key risk factors such as overcrowding, which makes social distancing next to impossible, the report identified shortcomings and inconsistencies in the implementation of Judiciary directives. It pointed to persistent overcrowding in some prisons; an unjustifiable insufficiency of fundamental necessities, such as cost-free cleaning products and hot water to ensure prisoners’ personal hygiene and to the glaring absence of systematic disinfection procedures in prison wards and common areas. In view of addressing these problems, the report also set forth recommendations that were in line with best practices formulated by international health and human rights authorities.

In conjunction with the Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA), ABC conducted a follow-up investigation into the evolution of these problems since April. The findings of this report indicate that the hygienic conditions in Iranian prisons, rather than improving, have significantly deteriorated. The research sheds light on Iranian officials’ failure to adequately decrowd prisons and implement prevention protocols, which led to a proliferation of COVID-19 cases in several prisons. Disinfections by prison officials have stopped across several investigated prisons, apparently due to a lack of budget. Some prisons were found to have reduced supplies of free food, basic hygiene products, and personal protective equipment to prisoners, and the steep price markups in prison shops render these items inaccessible to less-affluent prisoners, who can then not afford to ensure their own protection.

Quarantine procedures were shown in many cases to be self-defeating, due in part to a constant flow of newcomers and continued commingling in common areas such as bathrooms, hallways, and kitchens (ex: Zanjan, Greater Tehran). Initial efforts across several prisons to reduce the prison population in March and April seem to have been abandoned by May, coinciding with the return of prisoners who had initially been sent on furlough. Avoidable arrests and detentions for petty crimes and for crimes not recognized under international law, including for social media posts, religious activities and drug use, have countervailed releases and pardons that were issued in an attempt to keep inmate numbers low. These problems are compounded by a systematic and long-standing tradition of opaque governance and heavy-handed securitization. Consequently, Iran remains secretive about COVID-19 cases within prisons and the number of prisoners who were hospitalized or died, generating anxiety among incarcerated people and preventing an actionable assessment of the problem.

The human cost of this neglect continues to mount: confirmed or suspected cases of the novel coronavirus — some resulting in death — are cropping up in increasing numbers across the country, including Mashhad Central Prison (where three halls, with a cumulative capacity of around 600 people, have been designated as holding spaces for both confirmed and suspected cases), Evin (where at least eight people in the political prisoners’ ward have recently tested positive), Orumieh (where medical staff went on strike to protest a lack of preventative measures after prison personnel, including one doctor, fell ill and eight prisoners were transferred to the hospital with high fever and seizures), Greater Tehran (where two men exhibiting severe symptoms were held in a prayer room of Building 5 when the overwhelmed prison clinic couldn’t accommodate them, and a ward of Building 5 was placed under quarantine after an outbreak caused by the introduction of sick newcomers into a previously health ward), and Shahr-e Rey women’s penitentiary (known also as Qarchak, where scores of prisoners who tested positive have languished without much medical care).

Iranian officials have sung the praises of their coronavirus response in prisons, which they tout as exemplary for the region, if not for the world, yet the credibility of their claims is undermined by their blatant under-reporting of cases, their denial of prison access to independent human rights observers, and the persecution of citizens who disseminate accurate information about the virus. Documents recently leaked to Amnesty International indicate that Iran’s Ministry of Health has repeatedly ignored urgent appeals from the Prisons Organization to remedy the widespread shortages of the protective equipment, disinfectant products, and medical supplies needed to fight the pandemic.

Sanctions have indeed proven crippling to the economy of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and its leaders are facing hard choices in terms of resource allocation. But this adversity cannot account for the continued shortages of certain vital products such as soap, which has been produced in Iran for close to a century. Ordinary citizens, Iranian officials, hospital staff, and sources with knowledge of medical supply chains have told ABC and HRANA that domestically produced masks and disinfectants, hard to come by at the beginning of the outbreak, are now available in adequate supply.

The dire state of Iran’s prisons is a long-standing systemic problem that stems from policy choices of Iran’s leaders. Responsibility for the failures highlighted in this report rests with the Judiciary, parliamentarians, and successive governments who have, for four decades, failed to reform a draconian criminal code — as repeatedly recommended by experts and prison officials — or resource the carceral system while continuing to overload it with hundreds of thousands more people each year. In normal times, prisoners are more vulnerable to disease than the general population; in a time of pandemic, when an increase in COVID-19 infections and deaths have been reported in several prisons, it is reckless to disregard prisoner’s rights to health and life, rights which Iran is obligate under international law. If Iranian prisons become hotspots for COVID-19, thousands of prisoners will get infected, constituting a real threat for the prison population and the communities outside prison walls.

Iran has ratified several UN Conventions, which bar it from arresting individuals for crimes not recognized under international law and obligate it to protect the health and life of individuals deprived of liberty. The International community must hold Iran accountable for violating prisoners’ human rights, the lack of administrative transparency, and denying access to independent human rights monitors. It is imperative to distinguish Iran’s systemic failures of resource allocation from current international tensions and the hardships they have placed on trade. Iran does have the resources it needs to improve prison conditions and save lives, but decision makers have simply chosen to allocate precious resources to non-essential causes instead, such as the rebuilding of golden shrines in Iraq or the funding of religious studies for foreign students. Releasing prisoners who do not belong in jail is also a budget-neutral measure that, if implemented, would reduce the strain on prison resources while helping prisons’ staff who are themselves at risk and under tremendous pressure in the fight against the pandemic.

Iran must immediately allocate the resources prison officials have repeatedly asked for. It must allow implementation of the preventive measures recommended by the World Health Organization, as well as the Judiciary’s own directives, including but not limited to:

  • daily and thorough disinfection of prison facilities,
  • ensuring that essential personal hygiene items such as soap and sanitizer are made available at no cost and in sufficient quantities to all prisoners,
  • systematic testing and monitoring of prisoners,
  • provision of proper medical care inside and outside prisons to prisoners who are infected
  • allowing independent monitoring and health assessments by human rights groups and civil society.

It is imperative to note that the measures above will fail to curb the spread of the pandemic if they are not paired with a significant reduction in the number of incarcerated people to enable prisoners to respect sufficient social distance and avoid mass infections. The vital decision to release prisoners –including prisoners of conscience and human rights defenders, individuals accused of petty crimes, and those guilty of crimes not recognized under international law– is in the hands of Iranian leaders alone. They must not allow lifesaving measures to be hindered by administrative and political obstacles.

To read the full report, please download the file:

PDF document (in English)

The Greater Tehran Penitentiary; The Corona Virus Crisis, And The Deprivation of Hundreds Of Prisoners Of Drinking Water

HRANA News Agency: The water supply has been cut off at the Greater Tehran Penitentiary’s Wing 5 since last night, and hundreds of prisoners have been deprived of access to drinking water. Furthermore, 52 prisoners at the Greater Tehran Penitentiary’s Wing 1 have fallen ill with COVID-19. Additionally, a prisoner at the Prison’s Wing 5, Hall 4, has been vomiting blood and showing symptoms similar to those of the Corona virus. The return of prisoners from leave [into the general prison population] without first being quarantined is among the most significant reasons for the spread of the Corona virus in the country’s prisons, including the Greater Tehran Penitentiary.

According to a report by HRANA News Agency, the news arm of the Human Rights Activists in Iran, the water supply has been cut off at the Greater Tehran Penitentiary’s Wing 5 since last night, and hundreds of prisoners have been deprived of access to drinking water.

The cutting off of hot water at the Greater Tehran Penitentiary’s Wing 5, Ward 2, Hall 1, since nearly two weeks ago, has caused problems in cleaning and maintaining hygiene at the Hall. Furthermore, since 11 o’clock last night, the water supply has been cut off at the Greater Tehran Penitentiary’s Wing 5, and prisoners have been deprived of access to drinking water there. The Hall’s emergency supply of water was also depleted on the morning of June 19, and prison authorities have locked the Halls’ doors at this Wing in order to prevent prisoners from protesting.

A source close to the family of a prisoner incarcerated at the Penitentiary stated to HRANA: “Initially, the cutting off of hot water created problems for prisoners, and especially affected older individuals, who have subsequently caught colds or pneumonia due to bathing with that same [cold] water. Additionally, the drinking water supply has been depleted in Wing 5 and the conditions have gotten much worse than before for prisoners.”

Water conditions have never been that good in this Prison [to begin with]. The water supply for bathing is shut off for sometimes 17 to 18 hours a day. Based on the experience of past years, it seems that these shut-offs will become even more intense gradually and as it gets warmer. In the past week, two emergency water faucets have been installed for handwashing. Showers can only be used 4 to 6 hours a day, as a result of which, many prisoners do not get a chance to use the showers for between 2 to 5 months. Prisoners can only use hot water after 12 midnight. Water pressure is also not sufficient, and it is not possible to supply the Prison with adequate amounts of hot water due to persistent problems between the Prison authorities and the Shahriar region Municipality. As the weather has gotten warmer since last week, some days the Prison’s water supply is available for only 2 hours and the water is completely shut off most of the time.

Furthermore, the number of Prisoners infected with the Corona virus at the Greater Tehran Penitentiary is on the rise. 52 prisoners at the Greater Tehran Penitentiary’s Wing 1 have fallen ill with COVID-19. Additionally, a prisoner at the Prison’s Wing 5, Hall 4, has been vomiting blood and showing symptoms similar to those of the Corona virus.

The overcrowding in the Penitentiary has resulted in the spread of contagious illnesses like COVID-19.

The return of prisoners from leave without spending time in quarantine is among the most significant reasons for the spread of the Corona virus in prisons all across the country, and especially in the Greater Tehran Penitentiary.

HRANA had previously addressed the health and hygiene conditions at this Prison in a comprehensive report. There is an infirmary in each wing of the Greater Tehran Penitentiary, but the prisoners are deprived of access to a doctor or a nurse most of the day, and only a single prisoner (with or without any specialty) has been selected as the person in charge of the infirmary. Every few days, three prisoners are chosen from among individuals in a twenty-person cell to go to the infirmary, and even these people, [as few in numbers as they are], get minimal examination by the doctor or the nurse and are simply given a pill by the person in charge of the infirmary before they are taken back to the ward.

Prisoners suffering from illnesses such as HIV and Hepatitis are kept in a separate cell in Wards 1 and 2 of Wing 2, without being given any special privileges or facilities, especially during the spread of the Corona virus, and they use the same toilets and showers as the rest of the prison population. This can put these individuals’ lives at greater risk compared to other prisoners.