The human rights situation in Iran has “severely deteriorated,” according to a February 26 report from Amnesty International (AI).
In the report, titled “Human Rights in The Middle East and North Africa: Review of 2018,” AI outlined state restrictions imposed on the freedoms of Iranians, including freedom of expression, assembly, association, and religion. The report also catalogues instances of the state using excessive violent force against protestors and detainees, suppressing the media, and carrying out arbitrary arrests and inhumane punishments.
The report highlights the case of Nasrin Sotoudeh and her husband Reza Khandan, who were arrested and now face charges in connection with their support of women protesting compulsory hijab. At least ten other prominent lawyers were arrested or prosecuted last year, AI reports, adding that during the same period 112 women’s rights defenders were detained or prosecuted.
AI lambasted the Note to Article 48 of the Islamic Republic Code of Criminal Procedure, which denies individuals facing some charges, including those related to national security, the right to access a lawyer of their own choosing during the investigation stage, and instead forces them to choose from a short list of lawyers approved by the head of the judiciary.
Decrying the practice of airing coerced video confessions on state TV, AI pointed to the case of 17-year-old Maedeh Hojabri, who was briefly detained last May for posting videos of herself dancing on Instagram and then forced to renounce her behavior in a forced video confession that was broadcast.
The censorship of all forms of media and the jamming of foreign satellite television channels continues, and journalists’ associations are prohibited from operating, AI reports.
Although millions of Iranians use social media, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube remained blocked, as does the most popular messaging service in Iran, Telegram, forcing millions of Iranians to circumvent the blocks through proxies and filter breakers.
The case of eight imprisoned environmentalists, whose leader, 63-year-old Iranian-Canadian professor Kavous Seyyed-Emami died under highly suspicious circumstances in February 2018 in Tehran's infamous Evin Prison, was spotlighted in the report.
"In February, Canadian Iranian academic and environmental activist Kavous Seyyed Emami died in Evin prison following his arbitrary arrest two weeks earlier. Authorities claimed he committed suicide and refused to release his body unless his family agreed to an immediate burial without an independent autopsy,” the report reads.
The leaders of Iran’s Green Movement, which arose after the controversial 2009 re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and widespread protests demanding his ouster, continue to be kept under house arrest. AI criticized Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s rejection last August of President Hasan Rounahi’s proposal to end their confinement.
Documenting violations of the rights of religious minorities and newly converted Christians, AI refers to the "vicious crackdown" of Gonabadi dervishes early last year, and the placing their 92-year-old spiritual leader, Noor Ali Tabandeh, under house arrest.
"Christians, including converts, continued to face harassment, arbitrary arrest, and detention, as well as harsh prison sentences. Raids on house churches continued. Victor Bet-Tamraz and Shamiram Issavi, ethnic Assyrian Christians, and Amin Afshar-Naderi and Hadi Asgari, Christian converts, were sentenced to between five and 15 years in prison for peacefully practicing their faith,” AI reported.
Under the heading of “Cruel and Inhumane Punishment,” AI listed scores of flogging sentences for theft and assault, and other punishments amounting to torture.
"In July, a man known as M.R. was tied to a tree in Razavi Khorasan province and flogged 80 times. He had been convicted a decade earlier of consuming alcohol when he was 14 or 15 years old," AI reports.
The Supreme Court imposed and upheld amputation sentences, AI asserts, adding, "In January, authorities amputated the hand of a man, referred to as A.Kh., in Mashhad, Razavi Khorasan province, reportedly for stealing livestock and other valuables.”
The unchecked continuation of child marriage, inhumane prison conditions, and reports of border guards shooting Kurdish merchants crossing the frontier were also among the human rights violations AI mentioned in its report.