Evin videos show ‘institutionalised’ abuse in Iran’s prisons

Evin videos show ‘institutionalised’ abuse in Iran’s prisons

A series of leaked video clips have highlighted the shocking abuse of detainees inside Tehran’s Evin Prison, where over a dozen Christian converts are among hundreds of prisoners of conscience.

In one clip, a detainee is beaten by prison guards, while in another an elderly prisoner is dragged across the floor and up some stairs, after a cleric casually steps over him.

Article18 has heard first-hand testimonies from many former prisoners of conscience, reporting similar mistreatment, including beatings.

But the leaked clips are a rare example of concrete evidence of the long-suspected abuse within Iran’s prisons.

Dr Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, director of Norway-based NGO Iran Human Rights, told Article18: “We have received hundreds of reports of torture and ill-treatment of prisoners, and I have personally spoken to many victims of torture.

“I know that much worse things have happened in Evin Prison, but the clips are still shocking. We must also keep in mind that the situation is worse in smaller prisons across the country. 

“The most horrible part is that we see that the brutality and humiliation of prisoners is institutionalised, and one can only imagine how prisoners are treated in the interrogation room, when they want to force prisoners to confess.”

In response to the clips, the head of Iran’s prisons, Mohammad Mehdi Haj-Mohammadi, said he “accepted responsibility for these unacceptable behaviours”, while new head of the judiciary Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei promised an investigation by the attorney-general.

However, Hossein Ahmadiniaz, a lawyer who has represented clients including Evin prisoner of conscience Nasser Navard Gol-Tapeh, told Article18 such apologies and promises “will not cure any pain”, because the judiciary itself is responsible for authorising such abuses.

“The judiciary know that the principles of the constitution and the provisions of the Islamic Penal Code absolutely forbid torture and ill-treatment, and that such actions should lead to criminal prosecution,” he said, “but the problem is that the judiciary that has to prosecute these torturers is part of this same system, so it will not happen.” 

He called for independent rights monitors to be allowed access to Iranian prisons, saying that Mr Ejei and new president Ebrahim Raisi have both been “at the highest levels of the judiciary for 42 years”, and are “the cause of this terrible situation”.

“All prosecutors, investigators, judges and judicial authorities are aware of this behaviour, and all these atrocities have been committed with their full knowledge,” he said. “In actual fact, the judiciary specifically orders such torture and ill-treatment.”

Mr Ahmadiniaz added that “political and security prisoners”, including members of ethnic and religious minorities such as Bahai’s and Christians converts, are the “main victims of this dire situation”.

“The situation in other prisons is also terrible,” he said, “such as the Greater Tehran Central Penitentiary, Adel Abad Prison in Shiraz, and the prisons under the supervision of security agencies.”

A group of political prisoners currently held in Evin Prison also issued a statement, calling for an investigation by rights groups into the situation of Iranian prisoners. 

They said that torture took place in Evin that was “not recorded on any camera”, including “psychological and mental torture of detainees in solitary confinement [white torture] and the interrogation room”.

Dr Amiry-Moghaddam said he hopes “these videos will make the international community pay more attention to the human rights crisis in Iran”. 

He added: “They will also be important evidence in the future international tribunal against the leaders of the Islamic Republic, and those directly responsible for the inhuman treatment of prisoners.”

Quoting the contents of this article in part is permitted. However, no part of it may be used for any fundraising appeal, or for any publication where donations are requested.