Ahwazi Arab political activist Jamil Sowaidi reportedly tortured to death in custody
Reports indicate Ahwazi Arab political activist Jamil Sowaidi tortured to death in custody; if confirmed, Sowaidi’s death adds to body count of those tortured to death in custody in recent weeks, including death of Green Movement blogger Sattar Beheshti
(9 November 2012) — In a week when labor activist and Green Movement-affiliated blogger Sattar Beheshti reportedly died as a result of torture while in police custody, the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center (IHRDC) has received reports from informed sources that another citizen of the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) has died as a result of torture during detention.
According to IHRDC’s sources, Jamil Sowaidi, a 47-year old Ahwazi Arab welder and political activist was arrested last month in Ahwaz when men in plain clothes claiming to be the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Counterintelligence agents raided his home. When Sowaidi’s family referred to local government agencies in an attempt to determine his whereabouts and the charges against him, the authorities refused to cooperate or provide any information. Two weeks ago, sources indicate that another plain clothes agent visited the Sowaidi household and informed the family that Jamil Sowaidi had died and discouraged them from continuing their search for him.
In the following days Jamil Sowaidi’s family referred to local courts to determine whether the news of his death was accurate, and if so, to determine the reason for his death. Court officials then referred the family to Sepidar Prison in Ahwaz, where a prison employee informed them that no one matching Sowaidi’s name or description had ever been admitted to the prison.
IHRDC’s sources indicate that the family’s difficulties in accessing information about Jamil Sowaidi continued: they were referred to the Revolutionary Court of Ahwaz, which eventually provided them with a letter to take to the coroner requesting an examination to determine the cause of death. They were not successful, however, and Jamil Sowaidi’s body was buried on November 8, 2012.
Given the discrepancy between the accounts of prison and court officials, and patterns of unrecorded disappearances in the IRI, Sowaidi’s family believes that Jamil Sowaidi was never taken to a prison and instead died from torture during interrogations in a detention center.
As of the publication of this release, questions as to his exact time and cause of death remain unanswered, as do the reasons for his arrest. Jamil Sowaidi was never formally charged with any crime.
The deaths in custody of Sattar Beheshti and Jamil Sowaidi in such close succession paint a deeply troubling picture of the status of detainees’ rights in the IRI. Arbitrary arrest and torture are illegal under Iranian and international law. Article 22 of the Constitution of the IRI guarantees the inviolability of human life except “in cases sanctioned by law” (e.g. after the imposition of the death penalty), and Article 36 states that the determination and imposition of sentences can only be performed by a competent court in accordance with existing laws. Articles 37 and 38 affirm the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty and prohibit the use of torture to extract confessions from prisoners, respectively. Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the IRI is a signatory, prohibits torture, and Article 9 prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and obliges signatory states to inform arrestees of the charges against them “promptly” after arrest.