The Times also points out that the Shaheed’s report demonstrates consistent growth of Iran’s excessive application of the death penalty. His conservative estimate of 966 judicially-sanctioned killings in 2015 represents a two-fold increase since 2010 and a ten-fold increase since 2005. Many critics of the regime have seized upon these figures to buttress the argument that so-called moderate President Hassan Rouhani has actually overseen the deterioration of the domestic situation, compared to his avowedly hardline predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The National Council of Resistance of Iran – a coalition led by the PMOI – has been chief among these critics. But on Friday the NCRI also noted that the efforts of the UN special rapporteur had contributed to some positive trends, at least in terms of awareness, even at a time when Rouhani has failed to follow through on any of his campaign promises regarding a loosening of restrictions on free speech and the release of some political prisoners.
The relevant positive trends were highlighted by 40 political prisoners who signed a letter to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights regarding the question of Dr. Shaheed’s prospective renewal of his post. Although the letter emphasizes that the overall condition of prisons and the treatment of political prisoners remain awful, the signatories as a whole “have clearly seen the effect of [Shaheed’s] reports in prisons.”
This, according to the letter, is because Shaheed has been more active than any of his predecessors, leaving virtually no major human rights violations unmentioned in his reports. The letter goes on to say that as a consequence of this, Shaheed is especially hated by the Iranian regime and is the target of highly organized propaganda efforts. Many prisoners also report that they have been summoned by regime authorities and urged to disavow his findings in exchange for lighter sentences or other concessions.
Conversely, prisoners reportedly face intimidation and retribution for corroborating Shaheed’s findings, and this was the emphasis of another letter written separately by one of the signatories to the aforementioned. The NCRI published the text of this letter, as well. In it, PMOI supporter and inmate of the political ward of Gohardasht Prison Saeed Masouri alleged that three fellow inmates who had assisted Dr. Shaheed in his investigations had been specifically targeted by prison authorities and are now living under constant threat of violence or murder.
But such direct threats are only one of the measures employed against political prisoners either as a form of punishment or as a means for eliciting false confessions. On Thursday, Iran News Update reported upon the prevalence of another of these measures, namely the denial of medical evaluation and treatment to those who are badly in need of it. That report indicated that inmate health problems may be a result of poor prison conditions, mistreatment, hunger strikes, or all of the above.
Dr. Shaheed’s reports have naturally addressed this phenomenon, as well, and so too have a number of human rights organizations focusing on Iran either in whole or in part.