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Amnesty condemns Iran’s ‘impunity’ over suspicious prisoner deaths

Human rights group says Tehran has failed to explain over 70 deaths in custody in the past decade, many of which are believed to have been result of torture

In this undated frame grab taken from video shared with The Associated Press by a self-identified hacker group called "The Justice of Ali," guards drag an emaciated prisoner, at Evin prison in Tehran, Iran. (The Justice of Ali via AP)
In this undated frame grab taken from video shared with The Associated Press by a self-identified hacker group called "The Justice of Ali," guards drag an emaciated prisoner, at Evin prison in Tehran, Iran. (The Justice of Ali via AP)

NICOSIA, Cyprus — Amnesty International has condemned the “climate of impunity” that prevails in Iran over deaths in custody despite reports of more than 70 such cases over the past decade.

“Iranian authorities have failed to provide accountability for at least 72 deaths in custody since January 2010, despite credible reports that they resulted from torture or other ill-treatment or the lethal use of firearms and tear gas by officials,” said the London-based rights group.

The latest documented case involved a 31-year-old whose death was reported to his family by intelligence ministry officials in Urumieh, West Azerbaijan province on September 8, Amnesty said in a statement.

“Reports of the death of Yaser Mangouri in suspicious circumstances further exposes how the prevailing climate of impunity further emboldens security forces to violate prisoners’ right to life without any fear of consequence or accountability,” said Heba Morayef, Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa director.

The group’s report follows an admission by Iran’s prisons chief last month that “unacceptable behavior” had taken place at a notorious Tehran prison after videos published abroad appeared to show violence against detainees.

The footage of prison guards beating and mistreating detainees was reportedly obtained by hackers who accessed surveillance cameras at Evin prison.

Amnesty International said the leaked video footage “offered disturbing evidence of beatings, sexual harassment, and other ill-treatment of prisoners by prison officials.”

In this undated frame grab taken from video shared with The Associated Press by a self-identified hacker group called “The Justice of Ali,” a guard beats a prisoner, at Evin prison in Tehran, Iran. (The Justice of Ali via AP)

It said that in 46 of the 72 deaths in custody, informed sources said they had resulted from “physical torture or other ill-treatment at the hands of intelligence and security agents or prison officials.”

Another 15 deaths were caused by the use of firearms or tear gas by prison guards to suppress protests over Covid-19 safety fears, said Amnesty.

For the remaining 11 cases, the deaths occurred in suspicious circumstances, but no further details about potential causes were available, it added.

“Iranian authorities typically blame deaths in custody on suicide, drug overdose or illness in a rushed manner and without conducting any independent and transparent investigations,” the watchdog said.

In July, Amnesty and nine other rights groups urged member states of the UN Human Rights Council to establish a mechanism to collect, preserve and analyse evidence of the most serious crimes committed in the Islamic republic.

Iran regularly defends itself against reports by the United Nations or international rights groups criticizing its treatment of prison inmates.

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