Amnesty International Urges Iran to Stop Using Basij Militia to Police Demonstrations

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Amnesty International Urges Iran to Stop Using Basij Militia to Police Demonstrations

WASHINGTON - Following reports from Iran
that members of the Basij militia have used excessive force against demonstrators--and
in light of the history of abuses committed by this unaccountable branch
of the security forces--Amnesty International calls on the government of
Iran to stop using the militia to police demonstrations with immediate
effect.  

The Basij militia is a volunteer paramilitary
force of men and women under the control of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards
Corps (IRGC).  Its members are found in schools, universities, state
and private institutions, factories, and even among tribes.  Basij
forces are widely used to help to maintain law and order and repress dissent,
and have frequently been accused of using extreme brutality.

Many of those who took part in the recent
demonstrations claim non-uniformed and armed personnel, whom they believed
to be members of the Basij militia, used excessive force and carried out
human rights violations, including beatings and use of firearms, against
demonstrators on the streets.

A video of a member of the Basij shooting
from an building used by the Basij during the demonstrations on Monday,
June 15, in which at least 8 people were killed should have triggered an
immediate investigation by the authorities and clear instructions should
have been issued to prevent further loss of life. Another video of a young
woman identified as Neda, dying apparently from a chest wound, has been
widely circulated amid claims of involvement of Basij members.

The response of the Iranian authorities has
not been to open a proper investigation to clarify the circumstances of
any death but rather to issue further warnings that protests will be handled
in a "revolutionary manner" by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards
Corps, the Basij militia and other police and security forces.

“Iranians wishing to peacefully express
their opposition to recent events surrounding the election have no space
to do so, as they are met with violence that has been legitimized by the
highest authority in the land,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, deputy director
of the Middle East and North Africa program.  “It’s time for the
Iranian authorities to allow peaceful protest and to remove the Basij from
the streets.  The policing of any demonstrations should be left to
the police or other security forces which are properly trained and equipped.”

Following the speech from Iran’s Supreme
Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on Friday demanding an end to the protests,
there were further demonstrations on Saturday in Tehran and other cities
and towns across the country.  Amnesty International reports that
13 people were killed according to the authorities and many more were injured.
According to the government, over 400 people were arrested. Another demonstration
of about 1,000 people in Tehran on Monday has been met with tear gas and
arrests.

“Recent statements from the police, who
denied opening fire on protestors, and from the Tehran Prosecutor-General,
who blamed the killings on ‘armed terrorists’, look like an attempt to
disassociate state organs from responsibility for violence,” said Hassiba
Hadj Sahraoui. “This is all the more reason to stop using the Basij as
there is no way for the public to even identify them, let alone bring them
to account for violations.  If the Iranian authorities are not able
to control such a militia, they should disband it. It is irresponsible
to provide weapons and then to relinquish responsibility when abuses occur”.

Amnesty International calls on the Iranian
authorities to investigate fully all reports of death, including possible
extrajudicial executions, and to bring anyone found responsible to justice.
         
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning
grassroots activist organization with more than 2.2 million supporters,
activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human
rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates
and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice,
freedom, truth and dignity are denied.

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We are people from across the world standing up for humanity and human rights. Our purpose is to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied. We investigate and expose abuses, educate and mobilize the public, and help transform societies to create a safer, more just world.

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