Iran must immediately release critically ill human rights defender Arash Sadeghi: UN experts

GENEVA (2 December 2022) – UN human rights experts* today expressed alarm over the deteriorating health situation of jailed human rights defender Arash Sadeghi and called for his immediate release from prison.

Arash Sadeghi, who has been arrested and jailed on multiple occasions for his activities in defense of human rights, was arrested again on 20 October 2022 for unknown reasons and placed in indefinite detention. He is being held at a Ministry of Intelligence detention centre known as Ward 209 of Evin Prison. Mr. Sadeghi was reportedly interrogated for eight hours and subjected to coercion by security officers.

“Arash Sadeghi suffers from life-threatening bone cancer, and he has been deprived of some medication he requires since his arrest in October,” the UN experts said.

Mr. Sadeghi was arrested for the first time in 2009 and arrested and detained several times since. In 2013, he was sentenced to 19 years in prison on national security charges. During previous arrests, Arash Sadeghi went on hunger strike, notably to protest the arbitrary detention of his wife and his own poor detention conditions.

The UN experts have communicated on Mr Sadeghi’s detentions to the Iranian Government through five official letters sent between 2016 and 2020. The communications raised concerns about Mr. Sadeghi’s arbitrary arrest and detention, violations of his right to fair trial and due process, and his poor detention conditions. The experts specifically highlighted that the activist had been deprived of medical care.

In 2018, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found that Mr. Sadeghi had been arbitrarily deprived of his liberty and called for his immediate release. Mr. Sadeghi was only released in May 2021 from Rajaei Shahr prison in Karaj, after serving a sentence of five years and six months.

“Under international human rights law, when detaining a person, irrespective of the reason for the detention, the State bears full responsibility to care for the life and bodily integrity of detainees,” the experts said. “However, in breach of their international human rights obligations, Iranian authorities are not only continuing the unlawful detention of Mr. Sadeghi, but once again putting his life at imminent risk,” they said.

Arash Sadeghi’s case is not an isolated one, the experts noted. “We remain gravely concerned about the safety of prisoners in Iran, particularly those who have been arrested and arbitrarily detained in connection with the current wave of protests in the country,” they said.

Civil society organisations reported in April this year that 65 persons had died in detention since 2017 because they were denied access to medical care. The experts said that over 14,000 persons had been arrested since 16 September 2022, including human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers, students, civil and minority rights activists, intellectuals and artistes.

“Given the large number of allegations of torture and ill-treatment in Iranian detention facilities brought to our attention, we are fearful about the potential for irreversible health consequences for detainees, especially those being deprived of critical medical care,” the UN experts said.