Iran: Stop Increasingly Ruthless Crackdown and Investigate Deaths of Protesters

For Immediate Release

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Robyn Shepherd, media@aiusa.org

Iran: Stop Increasingly Ruthless Crackdown and Investigate Deaths of Protesters

WASHINGTON - Iranian authorities must ensure the right to peaceful protest, investigate reports that security forces have unlawfully used firearms against unarmed protesters and protect hundreds of detainees from torture and other ill-treatment, Amnesty International said today amid concerns that the crackdown against demonstrations that have spread across Iran in the past week is intensifying. 

Official statements have confirmed that at least 22 people, including two security officers, have been killed since December 28, when thousands of Iranians began flocking to the streets to speak out against poverty, corruption, political repression and authoritarianism.

“Law enforcement officials have the right to defend themselves, and a duty to protect the safety of the public. However, reports of the use of firearms against unarmed protesters by security forces are deeply troubling and would contravene Iran’s human rights obligations under international law,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“The Iranian government must promptly launch an effective and independent investigation into the killings and other reports of excessive or unnecessary force, and bring all those responsible for human rights violations to justice.”

Videos and eyewitness testimonies have emerged on social media and media outlets showing or describing riot police and other security forces using excessive and unnecessary force, including firing ammunition at unarmed protesters, beating protesters with truncheons and using tear gas and water cannons to disperse demonstrations. Amnesty International has not been able to verify the videos or witness accounts.

Iran is one of the countries singled out by President Trump’s Muslim Ban, prohibiting people from Iran from coming to the United States. 

“While he claims to sympathize with the protesters, President Trump’s discriminatory Muslim Ban prevents the very same people facing persecution from a repressive government seeking safety on our shores," said Elise Auerbach, Iran country specialist with Amnesty International USA. "This senseless ban, combined with Trump’s drastic cuts in levels of refugees, places desperate people at risk. If this administration truly cares about helping vulnerable people who just want to live freely, the ban must go.”

Hundreds at risk of torture

More than a thousand people have been arrested and detained in jails notorious for torture and other ill-treatment over the past seven days, with many being denied access to their families and lawyers.

“The Iranian authorities have an appalling track record of carrying out mass arbitrary arrests of peaceful demonstrators. Given the alarming scale of the current wave of arrests, it is highly likely that many of those held are peaceful protesters who have been detained arbitrarily and now find themselves in prisons where conditions are dire and torture is a common tool to extract confessions and punish dissidents,” said Luther.

“The Iranian authorities must ensure that anyone held solely for peacefully taking part in demonstrations, expressing support for them or criticizing the authorities is released immediately and unconditionally. All detainees should be protected from torture and other ill-treatment.”

Most of the demonstrations appear to have been peaceful, but in some cases violence by protesters has erupted, including stone-throwing, acts of arson and other damage to buildings, vehicles and other property.

“Those suspected of criminal conduct should be promptly charged with a recognizable criminal offense and tried in proceedings which meet international standards for fair trial or released. Their legal status and exact whereabouts should also be immediately disclosed to their families,” said Luther.

The authorities’ aggressive rhetoric against the protesters has been accompanied by state-sanctioned media outlets publishing a wanted list of protesters with their faces showing, and calling on members of the public to identify and report them to the authorities.

“The escalation in the intimidation of protesters and the grossly disproportionate restrictions imposed on the right to freedom of expression online over recent days heightens fears that the Iranian authorities may resort to increasingly heavy-handed tactics to crush dissenting voices,” said Luther.

“Peaceful protest is a right, and many people in Iran want to exercise that right. Instead of opting for repression and absurdly accusing protesters of collusion in foreign-orchestrated plots, the Iranian authorities should address their own record of failure to respect a range of civil, political, economic and social rights.”

 This statement and a full press release with additional quotes and background information can be found at: https://www.amnestyusa.org/press-releases/iran-stop-increasingly-ruthless-crackdown-and-investigate-deaths-of-protesters/

Follow Amnesty International USA and Amnesty International USA Media on Twitter.

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