• Press Release

One Year After Massive Political Dissent in Iran, Government Crackdown Widens with Hundreds Unjustly Imprisoned; Torture and Executions Widespread

March 27, 2011

One Year After Massive Political Dissent in Iran, Government Crackdown Widens with Hundreds Unjustly Imprisoned; Torture and Executions Widespread, Says New Report by Amnesty International

Imprisonment of Ordinary Citizens Called "Every Day Phenomenon" and Repression Documented Against Journalists, Lawyers, Religious Minorities, Students, Political and Rights Activists and Clerics

One year after massive dissent erupted over Iran’s disputed June 2009 presidential election, Amnesty International documents a widening crackdown that leaves hundreds of journalists, academics, lawyers, students, clerics, political and rights activists unjustly imprisoned. The repression has led to widespread torture and ill treatment, including rapes and mock executions, and to political executions, the human rights organization said in a new report.

"The Iranian government is determined to silence all dissenting voices, while at the same time trying to avoid all scrutiny by the international community into the violations connected to the post-election unrest," said Claudio Cordone, Amnesty International’s interim Secretary General. 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. 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.

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.

One woman said of a women’s rights activist who was held: "She 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."

Amnesty International demands 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," said Cordone. "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."