UN independent experts ‘deeply disturbed’ by alleged mistreatment of detained Iranian protesters

UN NEWS    |    HUMAN RIGHTS    |    December 20, 2019

Sixteen independent UN human rights experts called on Friday for the release of arbitrarily detained protesters in Iran who have allegedly been abused while in custody.

We are “deeply disturbed that the reported use of excessive force by the Iranian security forces led to an untold number of casualties, including deaths”, the experts said in a statement.

After the Government announced a new fuel policy in November, some 200,000 people took to the streets in protests. Official sources state that at least 7,000 were arrested and thousands remain in custody.

“Reports suggest that detainees are being tortured or are suffering other forms of ill-treatment, sometimes to extract forced confessions”, the experts continued.

Some are also reportedly being “denied medical treatment, including for injuries caused by the security forces’ use of excessive force”, and are being held in overcrowded detention centres, they asserted, adding that some are being held “incommunicado or subjected to enforced disappearances.”

The experts feared that detainees would be denied the right to a fair trial because of the country’s failure to adhere to due process standards, especially for those who have voiced opposition to the Government.

Forced confessions

Against the backdrop that senior officials threatened the protesters with severe punishment, the independent experts explained that they had already seen State television broadcast “so-called ‘confessions’, despite claims that these are being obtained under duress”.

Many detainees are also reportedly being denied the right to a lawyer of their choosing.

“We urge the Government and the judiciary to ensure that all those accused of crimes go through court proceedings that adhere to international fair trial standards, including the presumption of innocence”, the experts spelled out.

According to credible sources, at least 304 people, including 12 children, were confirmed dead during the protests, with unverified reports indicating that the total could be over 400 – and figures are particularly high in provinces with large ethnic minority populations.

“Reports and footage indicate that Iranian security forces not only fired live ammunition at unarmed protesters, but also aimed at their heads and vital organs”, the experts said, pointing out that targeting these body parts “shows that the security forces were aiming to kill or at least cause serious injury”.

Moreover, they said the Quds City governor admitted publicly that she ordered the shooting of some protesters by security forces, who entered the governor’s building.

We urge the Government and the judiciary to ensure that all those accused of crimes go through court proceedings that adhere to international fair trial standards — UN experts

“Extremely disturbed” that the authorities would use these tactics against peaceful protesters, it signifies a “breach of international standards on the use of force”, they maintained.

Remain silent

They found “most disturbing” that the families of those killed by security forces “have allegedly been threatened not to speak out”.

And Iranian journalists have been “ordered not to criticise the Government response”, while relatives of Farsi-language news journalists abroad are being pressured “to silence their reporting”.

Echoing UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, they called for the Government to hold prompt, independent and impartial investigations into all allegations of rights violations, including protesters’ deaths.

The UN experts have previously raised their concerns with the Government and will continue to do so while monitoring the situation.

Independent experts are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation. Their positions are honorary and they are not paid for their work.

The names of the 16 experts can be found here.