Iran apology after prison beatings video leak ‘far from enough’: Amnesty

Iran apology after prison beatings video leak ‘far from enough’: Amnesty
3 min read
25 August, 2021
Amnesty International has rejected the 'brief apologies and general promises' from Iranian officials and called for an independent inspection after footage of inhumane and cruel treatment inside Tehran's Evin prison was leaked.
The leaked videos show prison guards beating inmates and overcrowded conditions [Getty]

Apologies from Iran's prison chief for the abuse of inmates shown in leaked video are "far from enough", Amnesty International said on Wednesday.

Video clips from the notorious Evin prison in Tehran were leaked to media organisations including the Associated Press and other outlets by a group called Edalat-e Ali (Ali’s Justice), after hackers breached the prison's CCTV system.

The harrowing footage which showed beatings, sexual violence, neglect and overcrowding, provided a "rare glimpse of cruelty against prisoners," Amnesty said.

The footage prompted a rare apology from the head of Iran’s prison service, Mohammad Mehdi Haj-Mohammadi, who wrote on Twitter on Tuesday that he took responsibility for the "unacceptable behaviour" in the videos.

Mohammadi added that he was committed "to try to prevent any repeat of these bitter events and to deal seriously with wrongdoers."

However, the prison official also said he appreciated the efforts of Iran’s "honorable" prison guards, which suggested - according to Amnesty International - that the brutal scenes witnessed in the footage are the work of a bad few.

"Torture and other ill-treatment are far too widespread and systemic in Iran’s prisons and detention centres to be presented as the work of a few 'bad apples,'’' said Heba Morayef, Middle East and North African Regional Director at Amnesty International. 

"Brief apologies and general promises of accountability are far from enough to address Iran’s crisis of systemic impunity." 

Of the 16 video clips reviewed by Amnesty, seven showed prison guards beating and/or ill-treating prisoners; three of them show overcrowded prison rooms, three show inmates assault other inmates, two show inmates self-harming and one shows a solitary cell. They are dated from 2015 to 2021. 

One clip from April of this year showed a frail prisoner being dragged semi-conscious by guards while other prison staff stood around watching. 

Amnesty has called on Iranian authorities to allow international monitors, including the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, to inspect conditions at Evin and in other prisons so they comply with "international standards". 

Iran's Attorney General, Mohammad Jafar Montazeri, wrote that he would "review the published images...without delay" on Twitter on Tuesday. "The Attorney General is in charge," he said. 

Evin prison, which mostly holds detainees facing security charges, has long been criticised by Western rights groups. It was blacklisted by the US government in 2018 for "serious human rights abuses".