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22 Human Rights Organizations Call for UN Investigation into Suppressing Iranian Protesters

IRAN -- A group of protesters chant slogans at the main gate of the Old Grand Bazaar, in Tehran, June 25, 2018
IRAN -- A group of protesters chant slogans at the main gate of the Old Grand Bazaar, in Tehran, June 25, 2018

In a joint letter to the leaders across the globe, 22 international human rights organizations are advocating for the establishment of a select committee at the next gathering of the UN's Council of Human Rights to investigate "the grave violation of human rights in Iran" during and after the November 2019 protests.

"We, the undersigned human rights organizations, call on your government to address the continuing crisis of impunity for serious human rights violations committed by the Iranian authorities during the November 2019 protests and their aftermath, including through collective action at the 45th session of the UN Human Rights Council," the letter says.

Referring to Iran’s "impunity crisis," the letter argues, "The succession of atrocities in Iran is inextricably linked to the impunity that has led the authorities to believe that they can commit crimes under international law and other serious human rights violations without repercussions either domestically or from the international community."

The letter reflects Amnesty International's reports of Iran's "brutal" response to the 2019 protests, which were triggered by a drastic overnight increase in gasoline prices.

"Amnesty International has found that the security forces killed more than 300 people, including 23 children – 22 boys, aged between twelve and seventeen, and a girl reportedly aged between eight and twelve. Most of the victims were shot in the head or torso, indicating that security forces were shooting to kill," the letter says.

During the protests and in their aftermath, hundreds were killed, including women, children, and bystanders, as security forces fired live ammunition indiscriminately into crowds of civilians. Thousands were arrested, protesters suffered many injuries, families were threatened and intimidated into silence, and reports of disappearances and torture were widespread, as the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), one of the letter’s signatories, reported on September 9.

The peaceful mid-November protests soon spread to more the 100 cities and 29 out of 31 provinces of Iran.

Immediately following an order from the Islamic Republic Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, security forces supported by the Special Unit and swarms of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) members and plainclothesmen stepped in and heavy-handedly cracked down the unarmed demonstrators.

"Security forces used unlawful force, including live ammunition, birdshot, metal pellets, tear gas and water cannons against unarmed protesters and bystanders, killing hundreds and arresting thousands, according to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)," the letter noted, adding, "These gross violations of human rights took place under cover of an unprecedented week-long Internet shutdown imposed by the Iranian authorities."

The letter has also highlighted the case of the 7,000 citizens arrested during and after the anti-regime rallies.

Based on Amnesty International reports, most of the detainees were imprisoned and tortured at unknown locations.

"Police, intelligence and security forces and some prison officials used widespread torture and other ill-treatment against detainees. These included the most frequently reported methods of physical torture such as beatings, floggings, suspension, and forcing detainees into stress positions for prolonged periods, as well as information on torture methods such as electric shocks, waterboarding, mock executions, and sexual violence and humiliation," the signatories wrote.

"Despite the UN High Commissioner's call for 'prompt, independent and impartial investigations into all violations that have taken place' and a similar call from ten UN Special Procedures, the Iranian authorities have failed to open investigations into allegations of crimes under international law and other serious human rights violations committed by police, security, and intelligence agents and prison officials, with the complicity of Iran's judiciary," the letter asserts, accusing Iran of taking no steps to punish those responsible.

"Instead, high-level officials have made statements praising security and intelligence bodies and the authorities have embarked on a campaign of mass repression and harassment to intimidate and silence victims and families of victims seeking truth, justice, and redress," the letter says.

Meanwhile, International sports groups are intensifying calls for Iran to spare the life of a young Iranian athlete, warning that his execution is imminent.

Iran’s Supreme Court recently upheld two death sentences against a national wrestling champion, Navid Afkari, accused of killing a security guard during anti-government protests in Shiraz in 2018.

The 27-year-old has filed a lawsuit, insisting he was forced to make false confessions while under "the most severe physical and psychological torture."

"We are literally at one minute to midnight," said Brendan Schwab, executive director of the World Players Association, representing 85,000 professional athletes.

On September 3, U.S. President Donald Trump called on Iran not to execute Afkari, who had been sentenced to death for participating in anti-Iran demonstrations in 2018.

"To the leaders of Iran, I would greatly appreciate [it] if you would spare this young man's life, and not execute him. Thank you!" Trump said in a tweet that included a link to a Fox News report.