Update on Foreign Prisoners in Vakilabad Prison
Philippine embassy in contact with citizen, Nigerian and Ghanaian embassies were unaware that their citizens were executed
On 17 November 2010, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran reported that a citizen of the Philippines, Ernie Tamonde, is being held in Mashad’s Vakilabad Prison on drug charges. The Campaign had received a letter from Tamonde in which he stated being held inside a prison in Mashad and professed his innocence.
The Campaign contacted the Philippine Embassy in Tehran by phone, on 22 November, regarding Tamonde’s situation. Embassy officials told the Campaign that they were “aware” of his case. According to Philippine officials, Tamonde was arrested in Iran on 12 January 2010 and has received “special privileges,” in which he is allowed to make daily phone calls to his lawyers and the embassy. In a 30 November 2010 letter, the Philippine Embassy in Iran describes being in touch with Tamonde, but said embassy officials have been unable to visit Tamonde since January 2010. The letter states that the embassy was informed by Tamonde that “the court has sentenced him to life imprisonment.”
Since the summer of 2010, the Campaign has been reporting on ongoing allegations of unannounced, unreported, mass executions in Vakilabad prison, including the executions of citizens of Ghana and Nigeria.
According to sources, authorities inside Vakilabad prison executed Paul Chindo of Nigeria on 18 August 2010 and Aquasi Aquabe of Ghana on 26 October 2010. Sources alleged that authorities prosecuted and executed the African citizens without informing their embassies as required by international law.
The Campaign spoke to officials of both Nigerian and Ghanaian embassies in Tehran on November 22. Representatives of both Embassies stated that they were made aware of the executions only after they had taken place, and that they were still waiting for Iranian authorities to officially confirm the executions. A Nigerian official in Tehran added that he was only made aware of the execution because a reporter from the London Times contacted the embassy for more details on Chindo’s execution.
Under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, an international treaty that sets the rules for diplomatic relations, the Iranian government is required to inform embassies of the arrest or prosecution of any of their citizens in Iran and inform foreign citizens of their right to contact their embassy. The Iranian government appears to have complied with their obligations in the case of Tamonde, but not in the cases of the Chindo and Aquasi, who have reportedly already been executed.