Human rights violations in Iran are now as bad as at any time in the past 20 years, Amnesty International said today (10 December) in a new report six months on from June’s presidential election.
Amnesty’s report describes patterns of abuse before, during and, particularly, after the June election, when the authorities deployed the Basij militia and Revolutionary Guards to suppress mass protests at the disputed outcome. It includes testimonies from individuals who were detained during the protests, some of whom have since been forced to flee the country.
One man, Ebrahim Mehtari, a 26-year-old computing student, told Amnesty how on 20 August he was detained and put in a tiny 1.3m x 2m cell. He was subjected to interrogation sessions while blindfolded and accused of ‘working with Facebook networks’ and protesting against the election result. Interrogators tortured him into making a false confession: ‘They frequently beat me on the face; I was burned with cigarettes under my eyes, on the neck, head. I was beaten all over the body including arms and legs. They threatened to execute me and they humiliated me.’
After five days Mehtari signed a ‘confession’ and was taken and left in the street, still bleeding and semi-conscious. An independent forensic medical examination substantiated his torture claims, finding numerous bruises, abrasions and burns on his body. However, once it became known that these were from torture by state officials, all documents disappeared, apart from a copy of the medical report retained by Mehtari. The authorities then refused to investigate his allegations, warning his family there would be severe consequences if they talked about the case.
Meanwhile, another former detainee has described being held with 75 other detainees for over eight weeks in a container at the notorious Kahrizak detention centre. During interrogation he was told his son had been detained and would be raped if he didn’t ‘confess’. He was then beaten unconscious with a baton.
Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said:
‘The Iranian leadership must ensure that the many allegations of torture, including rape, unlawful killings and other abuses are fully and independently investigated.
‘Members of militias and officials who have committed violations must also be promptly held to account and on no account should any one be executed.
‘The Supreme Leader should order the government to invite in UN Special Rapporteurs on torture and on summary and arbitrary executions to help ensure that investigations are both rigorous and independent.
‘Anyone who is arrested or detained must be protected from torture or other ill-treatment, prisoners of conscience must be released and those convicted after unfair trials – including the ‘show trials’ which made a mockery of justice – must have their cases reviewed, or be released. All death sentences should be commuted, and others not yet tried must receive fair trials.’
Over 90 students have been detained in the last three weeks, and others banned from study, in a clear attempt to forestall demonstrations and to warn students not to continue their demands for human rights and academic freedom.
Meanwhile Amnesty is demanding proper investigations into all election-related violence. Investigations held by the Iranian government to date generally appear to have been intended more to conceal than to expose the truth, said Amnesty. The Iranian authorities have established two bodies to investigate the post-election crisis, including the treatment of detainees – a parliamentary committee and a three-person judicial committee. Yet the mandate and powers of both bodies is unclear and the parliamentary committee’s findings have not been made public.
Manfred Nowak, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Philip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions have requested entry into Iran and are waiting to hear back from authorities.
Official figures say 36 people were killed in post-election violence; the opposition puts the figure at over 70. At least 4,000 people were arrested after the elections and some 200 remain in jail, some arrested after the initial unrest died down.