Thursday, June 10, 2010


By William Fisher

One year after massive dissent erupted over Iran’s disputed June 2009 presidential election – and just days before the United Nations Human Rights Council releases its report on Iran -- the Islamic Republic is still conducting a widening human rights crackdown that leaves hundreds of journalists, academics, lawyers, students, clerics, political and rights activists unjustly imprisoned.

In a new report, Amnesty International charges that “The repression has led to widespread torture and ill treatment, including rapes and mock executions, and to political executions.”

T. Kumar, International Advocacy Director for Amnesty International USA (AI), told IPS, “Amnesty is extremely concerned about the continuing abuses being perpetrated upon hundreds of political prisoners. The Islamic Republic is determined to shut down all dissent – even peaceful dissent – by its citizens and by those lawyers and other defenders who stand with them.”

Amnesty International's 71-page report, “From Protest to Prison – Iran One Year After the Election,” documents the expanding wave of repression including arrests and imprisonment of those who have spoken out against the government and its abuses.

Lawyers, academics, former political prisoners and members of Iran’s ethnic and religious minorities have been caught up in the crackdown that has led to widespread incidents of torture and other ill-treatment along, with politically motivated execution of prisoners, the report says.

Amnesty says detainees “have been held incommunicado for days, week or even months while relatives remain unable to find out where they are being held or on what charges.”

It adds, “The secrecy surrounding arrests makes it easier for interrogators to resort to torture and other ill-treatment, including rape, and mock executions, in order to extract forced ‘confessions,’ which are used later as evidence in trial.”

The organization reports that a women’s rights activist who was held “told us that her interrogators had attached cables to her nipples and given her electric shocks. She was so ill she would sometimes faint in the cell.”

The organization is demanding the release of all prisoners of conscience in Iran held since the disputed 2009 election and its aftermath and calls for fair trials without recourse to the death penalty for other political prisoners.

Amnesty International said the Iranian government took an "absurd stand" when it presented its national report to the Universal Periodic Review by the Human Rights Council of the United Nations -- that virtually no violations occurred in Iran. The council will adopt its final report on Iran this week.

Amnesty International is demanding that U.N. human rights experts be allowed to visit Iran and that the country accept recommendations relating to the treatment of prisoners.

Hundreds of people remain detained for their part in the protests of June 2009 or for otherwise expressing dissenting views. The imprisonment of ordinary citizens has become an every day phenomenon in an expanding ‘revolving door system’ of arbitrary arrest and detention. Those with only tentative links to banned groups as well as family members of former prisoners have been subjected to arbitrary arrest in the past year.

Examples include:

Banned student Sayed Ziaoddin Nabavi serving a 10-year prison sentence in Evin Prison. A member of the Council to Defend the Right to Education, his sentence appears to be linked to the fact that he has relatives in the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, a banned group, which the authorities claim was responsible for organizing demonstrations.

Around 50 members of the Baha’i faith have been arrested across Iran since the elections - continuing to be unjustly cast as scapegoats for the unrest.

Iran’s ethnic minority communities have faced arrest and detention, during and following the election. Four Kurds were among five political prisoners executed in May without the notifications required by law, in what was a clear message to anyone considering marking the anniversary with protest.

The mother of a human rights defender, Shiva Nazar Ahari, detained without charge or trial whose case is highlighted in the report, said: “I hope your daughters grow up to get married – mine grew up to be thrown into jail,” illustrating the journey taken by an increasing number of Iranians, from political and civil activism to the cells of Evin Prison and other prisons in the provinces.

Politically motivated executions, recently taking place prior to key anniversaries when mass protests are expected, continue, with the justice system used as a lethal instrument of repression by the Iranian authorities. At least six people remain on death row charged with ‘enmity against God’ for their alleged involvement in demonstrations and membership of banned groups.

Iran has one of the highest rates of executions in the world. To date in 2010, Amnesty International has already recorded over 115 executions.

“The Iranian authorities must end this campaign of fear that aims to crush even the slightest opposition to the government,” Amnesty said, adding, “They are continuing to use the death penalty as a tool of repression, right up to the eve of the anniversary of the election. The Iranian authorities blame everyone but themselves for the unrest but they are failing to show any respect for their own laws which prohibit the torture and other ill-treatment of all detainees.”

AI and other organizations will mark June 12, 2010, the first anniversary of last year’s disputed elections in Iran, with a Global Day of Action across the world.

The United Nations Security Council yesterday passed its fourth round of sanctions against Iran’s nuclear program, but it was widely believed that the measures would halt Iran’s production of nuclear fuel.

But Amnesty’s Kumar suggests that the time has come for the international community to move beyond the nuclear issue alone and recognize the “dire human rights disaster happening before our eyes in Iran.”