1. What information is recorded in the Iran Prison Atlas (IPA)?IPA gathers as much information as is available on the following three categories:
2. How is the information collected?
IPA’s researchers collect information through:
3. How does the IPA define a ‘political prisoner’?There is no universally accepted definition for “political prisoner” under international law. The term “political prisoner” is used and applied differently among activists, governments, and international human rights organizations. IPA’s definition of “political prisoner” is modeled after the guidelines established by the Parliamentary Assembly for the Council of Europe and the legal categories for “arbitrary detention” established by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.
IPA considers a “political prisoner” to be anyone who is deprived of his or her personal liberty:
Within this definition, IPA makes some important exceptions.
4. What kind of violations are entered in the IPA?As mentioned above, IPA is a database of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in Iran. This means that the Iranian government has arrested, detained, or imprisoned these individuals because of their political ideology, identity, or the exercise of their fundamental rights under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. IPA focuses especially on prisoners targeted because of the exercise of or their advocacy for:
5. What kind of charges are entered in the IPA?IPA records all the charges against a political prisoner in the timeline section of their individual profile. However, for our statistical analysis, we only enter political charges for which an activist is convicted. For a list of the most frequently recorded political charges in the database, visit our Glossary of Charges.
6. What is the difference between a prisoner’s impugned activity and their legal charge?In the case of political prisoners, charges brought by the state are generally for political reasons. Nevertheless, these charges are usually linked to specific conduct or actions taken by a political prisoner, often in the form of exercising a fundamental freedom or right. Where possible, the IPA records the “impugned activity” of a political prisoner, which is the activity that has provoked the arrest. However, due to the political nature of most cases, the impugned activity and the charged activity may be different. Often the charged activity is the pretext for arresting a political prisoner, whereas the impugned activity is the basis for which the political prisoner is targeted. For example, a dual national who travels to Iran as an academic to carry out research may be charged with “collaboration with a hostile government” or “espionage”. However the impugned activity -- i.e. the activity for which they are targeted politically -- is the research they were conducting or the mere fact that they possess dual nationality. For a list of the most common impugned activities recorded by the IPA, visit our Glossary of Impugned Activities.
7. Which courts investigate political cases and how does IPA register them?In Iran, the prosecution of criminal cases starts in the dadsara. Generally, bazporses, prosecutors and dadyars start their investigation after receiving their reports from judicial agents and are responsible for issuing arrest warrants, if necessary. In political cases, the IRGC and Ministry of Intelligence exert influence over these positions, which plays a significant role in determining the outcome of investigations. If the dadsara concludes that there is enough evidence to proceed, the case goes to the relevant court and the judge will decide whether the accused is acquitted or convicted, as well as the resulting sentence. IPA considers clerical and military courts as specialised courts. Although there are many of these courts across the country, IPA has created a single unified profile for each specialised court. Their profiles can be found under Special Clerical Dadsara and Court and Judiciary Organization of the Armed Forces. This means that regardless of where an individual is arrested or tried, if their case is under the purview of a specialised court, all legal violations will be registered under the unified court profile. Unless a case falls within a specialised court, IPA does not divide criminal courts based on the type of court. Although Article 294 of the Code of Criminal Procedure divides the court system into sub-categories such as Criminal Court 1, Criminal Court 2, Revolutionary Court, Children and Teenagers’ Court, it is in many cases very difficult to accurately verify the court in a given case. To avoid misinformation, IPA does not distinguish between these courts and instead registers the provincial courthouse where the case is tried as the relevant judicial institution. IPA follows this same convention for appeals courts as well. In cases where IPA researchers are aware of the presiding judge, the case will also be registered under the presiding judge’s profile in the database. Rulings confirmed by the Supreme Court are registered on the Supreme Court’s profile as well as the presiding judge(s)’ profile(s), if they are known. In future, IPA will also register statistical information about cases where the Supreme Court has refused to grant leave, or cases where the Supreme Court has granted the appeal and sent the case back to the lower court.
8. How does IPA attribute a legal violation to a judge or other perpetrator?IPA registers legal violations at all stages of the legal process in politically motivated cases. These stages are defined as follows:
9. What is included in IPA’s statistical section?Although IPA researchers are aware that IRI authorities commonly violate a plethora of domestic and international rights to which prisoners are entitled, we only record the most egregious violations, which are regularly reported in media, NGO reports, and other human rights documentation efforts, in our statistical section. The reason for this narrowed scope is to ensure that our statistics are accurate and representative. Including data on violations that are not widely reported across the country would be misleading and lead to erroneous analyses and conclusions. IPA also records details about a prisoner’s case that may not amount to legal violations but that have statistical value nevertheless. For example, IPA records a prisoner’s hunger strike, which is defined as a prisoner’s refusal to eat solid foods, to receive intravenous fluids, or to take any nutrients for at least seven days. IPA also monitors when a furlough has been denied to a prisoner after a reasonable period based on Article 214 POR. With respect to the length of prisoners’ sentences, the statistical section only includes the actual sentence prescribed under Article 134 of the Islamic Penal Code, especially in cases where a prisoner has been sentenced on multiple charges. It is important to note that we display the length of a prison sentence by the number of years and months. If the sentence length also includes a number of days, a length of 15 days or shorter is not counted, but a length of more than 15 days is counted as a full month. For example, a prison sentence of three months and 15 days is displayed as a three-month sentence, whereas a prison sentence of three months and 16 days is displayed as a four-month sentence. The exact length of each sentence is available on the relevant profile timeline. Moreover, when a prisoner must serve multiple sentences consecutively, the final sentence, which is the total sum of all the sentences, is displayed under Total Verdicts. When a prisoner's sentence is reduced by virtue of a pardon, a commutation, or other similar reasons, but either the court that has granted the reduction is not known, or the sentence is reduced by an institution independent of the court that has investigated the case, the new sentence is displayed under Other.
10. What is the minimum criteria for creating the profile of a political prisoner or prisoner of conscience?
If an arrestee is identified as a possible political prisoner, IPA will only register their profile in the following circumstances:
11. What is the reason for citing the source in some cases and not citing in other cases?All public sources are cited through hyperlinks in the “timeline” section of the IPA profiles. In some cases, IPA does not list certain sources in order to protect the security of our contacts. For some older entries, IPA sources, including online links, are no longer available. IPA researchers have implemented a new citation method that will preserve all sources moving forward, and we are in the process of updating our older entries, where possible. However, some of these older sources may not be retrievable. If you have any questions about our sources in a particular case, you can email ipa[at]united4iran.org and we will respond to your request within a reasonable time frame.
12. I know someone who has been arrested in Iran for ideological or political reasons. Why can't I find their name in the IPA?IPA endeavours to include all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in the atlas, where there is sufficient information available on their case. If you do not see someone that you believe belongs in the atlas, it may be for one of the following reasons: