Monday, 14 December 2009

The Times: Iran’s investigations into abuses are a sham, says Amnesty International

Iranian security forces used rape, torture and mock executions in their campaign to crush anti-government protest this summer, an Amnesty International said today, citing a “climate of impunity” that has seen human rights in the country plunge to their lowest point in 20 years.
Amnesty said in a report that protesters were incarcerated in appalling conditions, raped and tortured into false confessions and sentenced to death after suspect show trials while official investigations into alleged abuses “seemed to have been more concerned with covering up abuses than getting at the truth”.

Amnesty cited the case of Ebrahim Sharifi, a 24-year-old student from Tehran who was seized by plainclothes detectives during the June demonstrations and held incommunicado for weeks. Mr Sharifi said that he was bound, blindfolded and then beaten and raped, before being forced to undergo mock executions.

When he filed a complaint, secret policemen threatened him and his family, forcing him to go into hiding. An investigating committee later denounced his allegations as false and politically motivated.

Authorities deployed the hardline Basij militia and the Revolutionary Guards to suppress the hundreds of thousands of Iranians who took to the streets to accuse the regime of rigging the presidential elections in favour of President Ahmadinejad. The reports says that the security forces “resorted to exceptionally high levels of violence and arbitrary measures to stifle protest and dissent”.

“Members of militias and officials who have committed violations must also be promptly held to account and on no account should anyone be executed,” said Hadj Sahraoui, the deputy director of Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.

Dozens of protesters were killed during the brutal suppression. Amnesty said that authorities tried initially to pin the blame on foreigners and opposition groups, and even produced people who pretended to be those killed in an attempt to downplay the extent of the violence.

One protester described being locked in a shipping container with 70 other people for 58 days, and told during interrogation that if he did not confess his son would be arrested and raped. He was then beaten until he lost consciousness.
Another said that he saw a student, Ali Kheradnejad, “with his clothes ripped and his forehead bloody and later learned that he had died in detention, apparently as a result of torture or other ill-treatment”.

Despite the damning testimony, Iran has not only denied the widespread abuse but threatened to crack down even harder on protesters if the mass demonstrations continued.

As tens of thousands of students staged nationwide protests against the regime, Iran’s chief prosecutor, Gholam Hossein Mohsen Ejeie, said: “So far, we have shown restraint. From today no leniency will be applied. Intelligence and security forces have been ordered not to give any leeway to those who break the law, act against national security and disturb public order.”

Amnesty also the noted that Iran’s courts had handed out sentences of flogging and amputations, and had executed at least 346 people, possibly more, this year. Two men were executed by stoning, while eight of those killed were juvenile offenders.

“Torture and other ill-treatment of detainees were common and committed with impunity,” Amnesty says.

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