Iran’s police, intelligence and security forces, and prison officials committed a catalogue of shocking human rights violations against those detained in connection with nationwide protests in November 2019, according to a detailed report published Wednesday by human rights organization Amnesty International.
According to the report, the offences - committed with the complicity of the judiciary - include arbitrary detention, forced disappearances, sexual abuse and torture.
The November demonstrations began after Iranian authorities announced a 200% increase in fuel prices, due to sanctions imposed on the country over its refusal to abide by restrictions regarding its nuclear program.
The protests quickly spread to more than 100 cities across Iran, becoming one of the country's largest mass demonstrations in recent years.
Amnesty International's report, which is based on dozens of testimonies, describes how the Iranian authorities abused some 7,000 protesters - including women and children as young as 10.
According to the testimonies, thousands were arrested within days during the brutal repression of the protests. The detainees included human rights activists, journalists, people attending ceremonies to commemorate those killed during the protests. People who went to hospital for treatment for gunshot wounds sustained during the demonstrations were also arrested.
The report says hundreds were sentenced, flogged and imprisoned without just cause, with some even being sentenced to death in blatantly unfair trials conducted by biased judges behind closed doors. These trials often lasted less than an hour, and systematically relied on "confessions" obtained through torture.
Prison terms given to those convicted ranged from between one month and 10 years for vague or false national security charges such as “gathering and colluding to commit crimes against national security”, “spreading propaganda against the system”, “disrupting public order” and “insulting the Supreme Leader.”
Of these, at least three were sentenced to death for “enmity against God," due to vandalism.
“In the days following the mass protests, 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 catalogue 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.
“Instead of investigating allegations of enforced disappearance, torture and other ill-treatment and other crimes against detainees, Iranian prosecutors became complicit in the campaign of repression by bringing national security charges against hundreds of people solely for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, while judges doled out guilty verdicts on the basis of torture-tainted ‘confessions’," added Eltahawy.
One victim, who was subjected to waterboarding told Amnesty International: “They [my interrogators] would drench a towel in water and place it over my face. Then they would pour water slowly over the towel, which made me feel like I was suffocating… They would stop… until I started to feel better and then they would start torturing me this way again. They also punched, kicked and flogged me on the soles of my feet with a cable.”
Another victim, who was suspended from his hands and feet from a pole during his interrogators, told the organization: “The pain was excruciating. There was so much pressure and pain in my body that I would urinate on myself… My family know that I was tortured, but they don’t know how I was tortured."