June 07, 2005

Iran: Reformism in its new domains

Translator: Alireza Jabbari

The Association for Defending Prisoners' Rights held its first specialized meeting on the prisoner’s life conditions.
This meeting was held, with making a study of the situation of prisoners’ nourishment as its aim, in the Tehran university of medical sciences. Kambiz Novrouzi, the lawyer, was the first lecturer in this meeting. In his lecture, he emphasized the need to revise punitive policies, and to consider decriminalizing of the penal laws. He pointed out the fact that there are nearly 1200 crime titles in Iran, just now; and said that “breaching of promises” has caused ever-increasing augmentation of judicial cases and excessive number of prisoners in Iran. He estimated the annual turnover of prisoners in Iran as about 700,000 ; and concluded: “This means that one out of twenty Iranians spend at least one day a year in prison.”
Novrouzi added: “decriminalizing penal laws, has not yet been operationalized, despite its being propounded as a slogan; and defining individuals' conducts as crimes, and convicting them to prison, is being continued.” As an example, he referred to the recent approvals of the Regime’s expedience determination assembly and said: “Despite the fact that the assembly has no legislative rights, its recent approval under the title, aggravation of punishment for those committing embezzlement, bribery, and fraud’ , has required one month of detention for the accused individuals.
This means that the accused persons are sent to prison for a fraud amounting to 100,000 Tomans. He also emphasized that a prisoner is, first and foremost, a humanbeing; and, except for the cases of the negation of other individuals’ freedom , he (or she) has to be able to enjoy all his (or her) essential human rights.”
He concluded : “Improvement of qualitative situation in Iranian prisons, requires some tremendous national effort; because so many of the imprisoned individuals are not professional criminals; and therefore they have the right to be distinct from those who are really guilty.”
After Kambiz Novrouzi’s lecture, the hostess of the meeting invited Emadeddin Baghi, the chief of the Association for defending prisoners’ rights to mount the rostrum and deliver his lecture. In the beginning, he described the difficulties with which the Association was confronted in its efforts to hold the meeting. He said that, before getting into contact with Tehran university of medical sciences, the Association had contacted with a cultural- religious society, two faculties, and also the Tehran university club; but all of them at last refused to accept its requests, for various reasons, including:The pressures born by non-university institutions. Then, he thanked the Tehran University of medical sciences Islamic Association for its cooperation.
Then, baghi, criticizing the discrimination between internal and external human rights institutions, exerted by judicial authorities and preventing internal ones from visiting the prisons, added: “Despite all these limitations, we will not treat our duty in this regard as something done away with, and we will hold. our specialized meetings in the future. He also announced to the audience that the annual report of the Association regarding the state of affairs in Iranian prisons is being drawn up.
Then, the chief of the Association for Defending Prisoners’ Rights, pointing to the fact that the Association is not political, said: “But this assertion does not mean that the politics is being reproached in it”; and added: “Some executives and statesmen do not understand the meaning of being unpolitical; and they think when we say we are unpolitical, we are just to consider the state of affairs about normal and unpolitical prisoners; and if we mention the names of political prisoners and defend their rights, they will send us letters, notifying that the Association has become political.” He emphasized that, from the Association’s viewpoint, any prisoner, regardless of the reason for his (or her) imprisonment, is to be defended by the Association.
In continuation, the hostess of the meeting invited a few of normal and political prisoners of the last years, who were released recently, to describe their nourishment and living situations in prison. The first one who was invited to the rostrum was Afsaneh Novrouzi, a newly released prisoner, who bore 8 years of prison.
She pointed out to the audience that the nutrition was insufficient; and they were confronted with lack of suitable foods, in Bandar Abbas prison; and mentioned that she and the other prisoners were frequently encountered with nutritious poisoning for it. After Novrouzi, Hassan yousefi Ashkevari was invited to the rostrum. He began his speech with the assertion that it has become customary in contemporary times to attribute all of the problems to politics, in the word’s common place sence. He defined the government and the state as a result of the interactions taking place in the society.
Yousefi called the prison as the absolute, but inevitable evil; and described it as a disquised matter, even in the eyes of the elite, in Iran. Ashkevari, assessed his nutritious situation in prison, with respect to his presence in the special block for the clergy, as suitable from the point of view of quantity; but meanwhile he emphasized that the foods are not desirable from the qualitative view point. He asserted that his “special desease” (diabetes mellitus), was problematical , particularly with respect to his need for special diet, and the prohibition of entering any kind of food into the prison; then, he mentioned that he could enjoy a special diet prescribed by the physician, just with a permission from Bakhtiari (the previous chief of the prisons’ organization).
Then, Ali Reza Jabbari, a writer who was released recently, talked about his experiences in Rajaee- shahr prison, in Karaj. He mentioned his situation during his court procedure, in the beginning; and expressed his discontent with his presence before the court of law and writing his brief defence in handcuff and shackles, and without the presence of a lawyer. He assessed the quantity of food, with due attention to the block he was kept in (laborers’ block), as suitable, but he appraised the quality of the prisoners’ food as unsuitable. After Jabbari, a financial prisoner who had been kept in Evin prison for some time, described his reminiscences and observations of his imprisonment period.
In the third part of the meeting, Mehdi Ghani, read the Association for defending prisoners’rights report about the nutritious situation in Iranian prisons. This report that seems to be a part of the Association’s report about the subject discussed in the meeting, emphasizes that its members did not succeed in visiting prisons, because it is a newly-established association. For the same reason, their resources have only been judicial power’s publications, the relevant books, and the prisoners who were released or who were on a leave.
This report starts with a study of the rules and regulations of the prisons’ organization (paragraphs 97 to 102), which includes the minimal nutritious program for prisoners, and their living situation.

تبليغات خبرنامه گويا


This report also emphasizes that it might not be possible to make a general judgement regarding the state of affairs in Iranian prisons, because it differs block by block. It might also not be fair to attribute the bad quality of food just to the people who are directly responsible for it, because there are many various factors involved in purchasing, cooking, and distributing the food among prisoners. In the report, the presence of prisoners in the kitchen and the compulsoriness of their labor, together with the insufficient control on the food preparation process, has been appraised as another factor affecting bad quality of foods.
The Administration for Defending Prisoners’ Rights has also included the results of its case study on the nutritious situation in Iranian prisons in its report.

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