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Iran: leaked surveillance videos from Evin Prison are 'tip of the iceberg'

Sixteen videos show abuse, neglect and overcrowded conditions

Guards shown beating handcuffed prisoner over the head and back, while a comatose man is dragged along a prison yard 

‘It is shocking to see what goes on inside the walls of Evin Prison’ - Heba Morayef

Amnesty International has said that leaked surveillance footage from Evin Prison in Tehran showing guards abusing inmates is “just the tip of the iceberg”.

Amnesty has analysed 16 leaked video clips - obtained from Iranian independent media outlets - which offer shocking visual evidence of beatings, sexual harassment and deliberate neglect and ill-treatment of those in need of medical care (see details of the videos below). 

The videos also raise fresh concern around chronic overcrowding and solitary confinement in cruel and inhumane prison conditions in Iran’s detention centres.

Since 22 August, independent media outlets based outside Iran have published a growing number of leaked videos received from a group calling itself “Edalat-e Ali” (Ali’s justice), which has hacked the security cameras of Evin Prison in Tehran. 

Senior Iranian officials have confirmed the veracity of footage. In a rare admission of responsibility, the head of Iran’s Prisons Organisation, Mohammad Mehdi Haj Mohammadi, said in a tweet yesterday (24 August) that he accepts responsibility for the “unacceptable behaviours” shown in the footage and promised to work towards holding those responsible accountable and preventing recurrence. 

However, Mohammadi also said he appreciated the efforts of Iran’s “decent” prison guards, suggesting that abuses at Evin prison were exceptional. 

Yesterday, the head of Iran’s judiciary, Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei, also issued a written instruction to Iran’s chief prosecutor asking that “the treatment of prisoners by prison officials and/or other prisoners [in Evin prison] are promptly and carefully examined”.

Amnesty has long documented how Iranian security officials routinely subject men, women and children behind bars to torture or other ill-treatment, particularly when undergoing interrogations in detention centres run by the Ministry of Intelligence, the Revolutionary Guard, and the investigation unit of Iran’s police (Agahi). Methods of torture include floggings, electric shocks, mock executions, waterboarding, sexual violence, suspension, force-feeding of chemical substances and deliberate deprivation of medical care.

Heba Morayef, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Director, said: 

“This disturbing footage offers a rare glimpse of the cruelty regularly meted out to prisoners in Iran.

“It is shocking to see what goes on inside the walls of Evin prison, but sadly the abuse depicted in these leaked video clips is just the tip of the iceberg of Iran’s torture epidemic.

“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.

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

“If the Iranian authorities want their promises of accountability to not ring hollow, they must immediately allow international monitors - including the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran - to conduct independent inspections of Evin and other prisons.”

Footage of cruelty 

Of the 16 video clips reviewed by Amnesty, seven show prison guards beating or otherwise ill-treating prisoners; three show overcrowded prison rooms; three show incidents of assault against inmates by other inmates; two show incidents of self-harm; and one shows a solitary cell with cruel and inhumane conditions. 

In one video dated 31 March 2021, a prison official is seen hitting and punching a prisoner in the face in the presence of a group of prisoners. In another dated 21 December 2020, two prison officials are seen pushing, shoving, hitting and kicking a handcuffed prisoner on his head and back in the presence of multiple other officials, and then dragging him along the ground. 

Four clips depict an incident on 26 April 2021 where a visibly frail prisoner faints in the prison courtyard after stepping out of a car. Guards are seen first neglecting him and then dragging him semi-conscious along the ground and into the prison. Multiple staff members are seen watching the incident or passing by the man in a detached manner.

Another clip dated 9 December 2015 shows a man being ordered to strip naked in front of a guard. He is then ordered to crouch down on the floor naked with his face to the wall while a guard sitting behind him on a chair is seen calmly searching his underwear and trousers for prohibited items.  

Three clips dated 11 June 2016, 15 January 2020 and 4 February 2021 show overcrowded prison rooms with triple sleeper bunk beds accommodating between 15 and 18 people. 

Another clip, which is undated, shows a tiny, bed-less solitary confinement cell with a squat toilet in the corner. 

Amnesty also reviewed two clips depicting self-harm, dated 4 January 2020 and 23 August 2016, and three clips showing incidents of assault against inmates by other inmates.

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