Narges Mohammadi Calls on MPs to End the “Illegal” Torture of Solitary Confinement in Iran’s Prisons

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Imprisoned prominent human rights activist Narges Mohammadi has called on members of Iran’s Parliament to investigate and end the “illegal” practice of solitary confinement of prisoners.

“As a defender of human rights who has been tortured by this practice, I consider it my duty to take every opportunity to express my protest against solitary confinement, the suffering victims of which I continue to see in Evin Prison,” wrote Narges Mohammadi in a letter from the prison where she is serving a 16-year sentence for peacefully advocating for human rights.

“I am sure you are aware that under the laws and regulations of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and based on the opinion of the Supreme Administrative Court, keeping suspects in solitary confinement is not only illegal, but also a clear violation of the constitutional and basic human rights and dignity of prisoners, instituted by the security and judicial agencies without rules or limits,” she wrote.

Article 39 of Iran’s Constitution forbids “all affronts to the dignity and repute of persons arrested, detained, imprisoned, or banished.”

The letter, published by the Defenders of Human Rights Center on October 8, 2017, addressed members of Parliament’s Article 90 Committee, which is authorized by the Constitution to investigate citizens’ complaints against the executive, legislative and judicial branches of state.

In her letter, Mohammadi—a 45-year-old mother of twins who is currently being held in Evin Prison’s Women’s Ward—mentioned 15 other cellmates who she said have spent a total of 140 months in solitary confinement throughout different periods of their incarceration.

Mohammadi also listed examples of abuse and suffering that she said have occurred while prisoners have been held in solitary confinement:

– Death under interrogation (Zahra Kazemi, Zahra Baniyaghoub, Sattar Beheshti…).

– Sexual and other assaults.

– Diseases and ailments, especially psychological disorders.

– Extraction of false confessions under psychological pressure, which are used to justify heavy prison sentences.

Mohammadi called on the MPs to:

“A) Form a committee to study the legal and security aspects of this phenomenon and the continuation of this illegal and inhuman practice by the judicial and security agencies without any oversight.

“B) Investigate the human aspects of this method of torture and its terrible impact and harm on people. Invite the victims who have experienced solitary confinement, listen to their stories and present a report to the public in an open session of Parliament. Then use all your legal authority to put a stop and end to this inhumane method of torture.”

Winner of the 2011 Per Anger Prize for her defense of human rights in Iran, Mohammadi was first arrested in 2009 and sentenced to 11 years in prison on charges of “assembly and collusion against national security,” “membership in the Defenders of Human Rights Center,” and “propaganda against the state.”

Upon appeal, her sentence was reduced to six years behind bars and she was released from Zanjan Prison in 2013 on medical grounds.

Mohammadi was arrested again on May 5, 2015, two months after meeting with Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign policy chief at the time, at the Austrian Embassy in Tehran to discuss the situation of human rights in Iran.

In September 2016, Branch 26 of the Tehran Appeals Court upheld a 16-year prison sentence for “membership in the [now banned] Defenders of Human Rights Center,” “assembly and collusion against national security,” and one year for “propaganda against the state.”

Mohammadi will be eligible for release after serving 10 years in prison.

After Hassan Rouhani’s second-term victory in Iran’s May 2017 presidential election, Mohammadi called on him to build the foundations for civil society in Iran.

“As a citizen who voted for you, I should and will be insistent on seeking my demands,” she wrote. “I am an imprisoned civil rights activist, but I am not asking you to free me. I want to see [the dream for] a civil society come true. That is my demand.”

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