BEIRUT: Amnesty International urged the UN on Wednesday to launch an inquiry into the killing of protesters by Iranian security forces, six months after they erupted over petrol prices.
The demonstrations broke out across Iran on Nov. 15 after the announcement of a shock decision to hike the price of petrol by up to 200 percent.
They turned violent before being put down by security forces amid a near-total internet blackout.
Amnesty said it had evidence that 304 men, women and children were killed by Iran’s security forces during the “ruthless” crackdown.
The London-based human rights group said 220 of them died within two days, based on its research, including analysis of videos and photos.
It said the “vast majority” were killed by the security forces whose use of force was “unlawful” as there was “no evidence that people were in possession of firearms or that they posed an imminent threat to life.”
“Six months later, the devastated families of victims continue their struggle for truth and justice while facing intense harassment and intimidation from the authorities,” Amnesty’s Philip Luther said.
Amnesty said that based on its analysis, security forces killed people in 37 cities across eight provinces.
The poverty-stricken suburbs around Tehran were hardest hit, with 163 killings, followed by the minority-populated provinces of Khuzestan and Kermanshah with 57 and 30, respectively, it said.
Amnesty said it had credible information confirming the deaths of 304 people, including 10 women and 23 children. But it stressed the real death toll was likely to have been higher.
“In all but four cases, the victims were shot dead by Iranian security forces — including members of the Revolutionary Guards, paramilitary Basij forces and the police — firing live ammunition, often at the head or torso, indicating that they were shooting to kill,” Amnesty said.
The US has imposed sanctions on Iran’s interior minister, accusing him of engaging in serious cases of human rights abuse. Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli gave orders authorizing the Law Enforcement Forces (LEF) of Iran to use lethal force in response to the protests. “His — and the regime’s — goal was to quash these peaceful protests and suppress the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression at any cost,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.
The Treasury also blacklisted seven senior officials of the LEF, including commander Hossein Ashtari Fard, and a provincial commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, for their roles in the suppression of protesters.
Washington also barred Rahmani Fazli and Ali Fallahian, the head of Iran’s intelligence service from 1989 to 1997, from traveling to the US. The State Department said Fallahian was involved in assassinations and attacks around the world.