Amnesty International accuses Iran of using torture to extract confessions after 2019 protests

Some 7,000 people were arrested by Iranian authorities, including children as young as 10, the rights group reported.

al-monitor Iranian protesters block a road during a demonstration against an increase in gasoline prices in the central city of Shiraz on Nov. 16, 2019.  Photo by AFP via Getty Images.

Sep 2, 2020

Iran has committed widespread torture to extract confessions of those rounded up in last year’s anti-government protests and subjected hundreds to grossly unfair trials, Amnesty International said in a new report published Wednesday.

Electric shocks, mock executions, waterboarding and ripping out fingers and toes were among the torture methods documented by the London-based human rights group, which interviewed dozens of Iranian protesters, witnesses, and others jailed or disappeared. Combined with video footage, official statements and court documents, the evidence reveals “a catalog of shocking human rights violations” carried out by Iranian police, prison guards and security forces, Amnesty International's report said.

A dramatic increase in gasoline prices last November, which came amid an economic crisis exacerbated by Washington’s sanctions campaign, sparked widespread anti-government demonstrations. Thousands of young, mostly working-class protesters took to the streets in at least 100 cities, demanding a complete overhaul of the political establishment.

An unknown number of protesters were killed in the bloody crackdown that followed. Iran, which blamed the unrest on interference from foreign governments, acknowledged in May that as many as 230 people died. The US State Department estimated at least 1,000 Iranians died in the chaos.

“Videos showing Iran’s security forces deliberately killing and injuring unarmed protesters and bystanders sent shockwaves around the world. Much less visible has been the catalog of cruelty meted out to detainees and their families by Iranian officials away from the public eye,” said Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty International’s deputy regional director for the Middle East and North Africa.

Some 7,000 people were arrested in connection with the demonstrations, including children as young as 10, the report said. The rights group compiled the names of more than 500 people "subjected to unfair criminal proceedings” on charges including “insulting the Supreme Leader” and “spreading propaganda against the system.”

Amnesty International says there were rapid-fire trials behind closed doors presided over by biased judges who relied on torture-induced “confessions.” Without access to lawyers, more than a dozen prisoners received flogging punishments, the report said. At least three people were handed death sentences for “enmity against God” relating to vandalism, and another is facing possible execution.

There was no immediate comment on the report from the Iranian government on Tuesday.

Among its recommendations, Amnesty International urged the United Nations to support the establishment of a UN-led inquiry into the alleged human rights violations. The group also called on UN member states to demand Iran release anyone detained for exercising their right to free speech.

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