UN rights experts express concern for failing health of jailed Iranian journalist

15 July 2005 –

Five United Nations human rights experts today urged Iranian authorities to guarantee that imprisoned Iraqi journalist Akbar Ganji be given a fair hearing and receive appropriate medical treatment for his severe asthma.

In a joint statement issued by the Geneva-based Office for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the experts expressed their "profound concern" at the alleged continued refusal by the authorities at Iran's Evin Prison to provide Mr. Ganji with appropriate medical attention. The experts say that the prison's medical centre is reportedly not equipped to treat his severe respiratory ailment.

The drafters of the statement were Commission Special Rapporteurs Paul Hunt, dealing with the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health; Ambeyi Ligabo, dealing with the right to freedom of opinion and expression; and Manfred Nowak, dealing with torture, as well as Hina Jilani, Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Representative on human rights defenders, and Leila Zerrougui, Chairperson and Rapporteur of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

Mr. Ganji was sentenced to six years jail in 2000 after returning from a human rights conference in Berlin where he reportedly expressed views critical of Iranian authorities and the country's Supreme Leader, the statement said. He was charged with "harming national security" and "spreading propaganda against the regime."

In May, Mr. Ganji was temporarily released from prison for medical care, ending a 43-day hunger strike. When he was re-arrested and returned to jail in early June, he was immediately placed in solitary confinement. Mr. Ganji resumed his hunger strike. Since then, his health has been failing and he has lost more than 20 kilos, according to the statement.

The statement pronounces Mr. Ganji's imprisonment in violation of international human rights norms and standards concerning the right to freedom of opinion and expression and relevant international covenants safeguarding recognized, civil liberties and fundamental freedoms.

The experts appealed to the Iranian authorities to take all necessary measures to provide Mr. Ganji with adequate conditions of detention, including necessary medical attention required by his condition. The also appealed to the Government to guarantee his right not to be arbitrarily deprived of liberty and to fair proceedings before an independent and impartial tribunal.

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