June 29, 2019
The Iranian authorities must urgently carry out an effective and impartial investigation into the suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of a 28-year-old detainee from the Ahwazi Arab minority, said Amnesty International.
Benyamin Alboghbiesh was arrested on 26 May. Just a month later, on 26 June, his family were informed by an intelligence official believed to be affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards that he had died at a detention centre in Ahvaz, in southern Iran. The authorities have yet to return his body to his family.
Given the systematic use of torture in Iranian detention facilities, the death of a young man, from a widely persecuted ethnic minority group and with no known health conditions, so soon after his arrest raises serious concerns that he was subjected to torture or other ill-treatment and that this may have caused or contributed to his death.
“Benyamin Alboghbiesh was a healthy young adult when he was arrested. His alarming death just over a month later raises serious concerns about his treatment and conditions of detention, including the possible use of torture. The Iranian authorities must immediately order an effective and impartial investigation into his death, including an independent autopsy,” said Philip Luther, Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.
“A state’s failure to adequately investigate potentially unlawful deaths in custody is a breach of the right to life. Anyone found to be responsible for his death must be held accountable through a fair trial and without resorting to the death penalty.”
Iranian authorities have a horrifying record of subjecting detainees to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, often in order to extract forced confessions.
“The Iranian authorities must take concrete measures to ensure all detainees are protected from torture and other ill-treatment, including granting detainees immediate access to a lawyer of their own choosing from the moment of arrest and during interrogation,” said Philip Luther.
Amnesty International has documented a pattern of deaths in custody under suspicious circumstances in Iran, recording 11 such cases since December 2017.
The Iranian authorities have consistently failed to conduct effective investigations into cases of torture and deaths in custody, which fits into a long-standing pattern of impunity in the country.
Investigations and prosecutions are essential to prevent future violations and to guarantee the rights of victims to truth, justice and reparations.
Benyamin Alboghbiesh was first arrested on 15 March 2018, along with his brother, Mohammad Ali, and mother, Maryam Zobeidi. They were all accused of national security offences, apparently on account of their family’s association with a relative outside Iran suspected of collaborating with armed separatist groups.
Benyamin Alboghbiesh and his brother were released on bail several months later, while their mother was transferred to Sepidar prison in Ahvaz and subsequently released on bail around December 2018. Both men were rearrested in early 2019 and released on bail after two months.
On 26 May 2019, they were arrested again, together with their mother. Benyamin Alboghbiesh was transferred to a detention centre believed to be under the control of the Revolutionary Guards. His brother was transferred to Sheyban prison in Ahvaz and their mother to Sepidar prison, where they remain to date.
The Iranian authorities have a history of persecuting and discriminating against members of the Ahwazi Arab community.