Netherlands failed to help self-immolation victim

From: Radio Netherlands Worldwide:

published on: 8 April 2011

On Wednesday, Kambiz Roustayi set himself on fire on Dam Square in Amsterdam’s city centre. A day later the 36-year-old Iranian died of his injuries. A friend of his, Parvis Noshirrani told Dutch television that Mr Roustayi talked about committing suicide when they were in an asylum centre together. But he received no help from the Dutch authorities.

“He was fed up with the situation. Roaming the city, sleeping in the streets. No status, no travel documents, no future. If he had returned to Iran, he probably faced the same fate. He was scared of being arrested and executed,” Mr Noshirrani told current affairs programme Nieuwsuur.

Pressure
Mr Noshirrani had to break the tragic news to Mr Roustayi’s family in Iran. His self-immolation was filmed on mobile phones. Mr Roustayi had been in the Netherlands for 11 years and expected to be deported. He fled to the Netherlands after he says he published articles in Iran which the authorities disapproved of. His requests for asylum failed each time.
Mr Roytayi’s lawyer Frank van Haren saw that his client was under severe mental pressure.

“He would look at me for a long time. Sometimes he would interrupt a conversation in which we were being positive by saying, ‘Do you really believe that?’ There were all kinds of signs.”

Responsibility
Mr Roustayi announced he was planning to commit suicide at a meeting with civil servants on 25 March at the asylum centre. But his friend Mr Noshirrani says he was not taken seriously and was not given help. Earlier this week, he wanted to jump in front of a train, but his friend persuaded him not to.
Mr Van Haren is also very critical of the Dutch authorities: “The authorities may be right to reject an asylum request and deport an asylum seeker, but if he is still here after eight or ten years and you see him deteriorating, and become mentally finished, only physically okay, there comes a time when the authorities have to take responsibility. You cannot just show someone the door.”

Legal assistance
Mr Roustayi’s act of desperation had a clear goal, says Mr Noshirrani. “He wanted to save other lives by ending his own. There are plenty of people in asylum centres, there are plenty of people who are deported without mercy.”
Immigration and Asylum Minister Gerd Leers called Mr Roustayi’s death ‘very tragic’, but says all the procedures were followed correctly and that the man was given proper legal assistance.

Second death
The Iranian embassy in The Hague says it is regrettable that an Iranian citizen abroad finds himself in such a difficult position that he kills himself. The Netherlands should in their words improve the ‘unacceptable situation of immigrants’. The embassy says it’s the second death in a week. It is not clear who the first case was. The Iranian embassy was unavailable for comment this morning.

Deaths in Iranian prison must be investigated

From: Amnesty International

17 March 2011

Amnesty International has called for an investigation into reports that up to 14 people were killed in a disturbance in a jail near Tehran this week.

The incident at the overcrowded Qezel Hesar prison in Karaj occurred on Tuesday night when clashes broke out involving prisoners and prison guards. The Prisons Chief said that a judicial investigation has been launched.

“Such a high death toll is extremely worrying. Prison officials have a responsibility to maintain order and to protect the lives of prisoners, but must exercise restraint,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.

“A prompt inquiry into these deaths is essential but it must be independent and transparent, as international human rights standards require, such as those set out in the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners and the Body of Principles for the protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment.

“Unfortunately the Iranian Judiciary has routinely failed to carry out such investigations, so we are once again calling on the international community to use the current session of the UN Human Rights Council to create a Special Rapporteur to monitor and report on human rights in the Iran.”

Prison authorities said the riot was sparked by death row prisoners and drug-trafficking and possession offenders committing arson and other destructive acts in an attempt to escape, as well as attacking prison guards.

However, human rights activist groups told Amnesty International the prisoners were protesting at poor conditions and attempts to transfer some of the inmates for execution.

One activist based abroad said he had been in contact with a prisoner from inside Section 2 of prison until the early hours of Wednesday, when the phone lines were cut.

“The prisoners took over Sections 2 and 3 of the prison,” the activist told Amnesty International.

“I was told that armed guards had stationed themselves on the roof of the prison and outside the doors to the section and the prisoners set fire to bedding to try to stop the guards from entering. The prisoner told me that the guards were shooting at everyone.”

There are reports that at least six people died from gunshot wounds and over 100 may have been injured, with some dying in – or on the way to – medical centres.

Iranian State Television reportedly said on Wednesday that 14 people had died, including at least nine prisoners, and 33 had been injured. Prison guards may have also been among the fatalities.

“We know that the Iranian authorities are on a killing spree at the moment, having executed well over 100 people – mainly alleged drugs offenders – since the start of the year. This is yet one more reason why they should immediately order a moratorium on all executions,” added Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.