Rights groups call on Iran to end ‘forced confessions’ of prisoners on TV

Reports alleged that methods to force the confessions included “physical torture” such as flogging, hanging by the hands and electrocution. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 25 June 2020

Rights groups call on Iran to end ‘forced confessions’ of prisoners on TV

  • Analysis showed that between 2009 and 2019, Iranian state media broadcast forced confessions from least 355 individuals

PARIS: Iran must end the “forced confessions” of prisoners broadcast on state-owned television, two rights groups said Thursday, arguing it amounted to torture and the perpetrators should risk legal consequences abroad.
The Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights and its member organization Justice for Iran (JFI), a London-based judicial accountability group, said their analysis showed that between 2009 and 2019, Iranian state media broadcast forced confessions from least 355 individuals.
It had also broadcast defamatory content against at least 505 individuals, they added, destroying their credibility as a legitimate news organization.
“The use of forced confessions broadcast by state-owned media has been systematically used by the Iranian authorities to repress dissent for decades,” said FIDH Secretary-General Adilur Rahman Khan.
“It’s time for the international community to press Iran to end this practice, which is the source of many grave human rights violations,” he added.
Their report said that forced confessions have been “systematically broadcast” by Iranian state-owned media “to instill fear and repress dissent.”
“Victims revealed that not only were they subjected to torture and ill-treatment to force them to confess — often to false statements — in front of the camera, but that furthermore, the broadcasting of these confessions caused enormous pain and suffering,” the two organizations said.
The report alleged that methods to force the confessions included “physical torture” such as flogging, hanging by the hands and electrocution.
But they said it also “psychological torture” such as long-term solitary confinement, mock executions, rape threats and deliberate exposure to poor prison conditions.

The targets of the broadcasts included human rights defenders, journalists, ethnic minority activists, political dissidents and dual nationals.
In the “forced confession,” a convict or suspect is put in front of the camera and confesses to the charges.
Another tactic used by Iranian TV broadcasts programs is to make sensational allegations about detained suspects, which the rights groups deem defamatory.
The report accused state broadcaster Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) of being “actively involved in the systematic production and broadcast of forced confessions” as well as the theft of private data and the publication of defamatory content.
“IRIB has long lost its function as a media organization and has become a means of mass suppression,” the report said.
The report singled out IRIB’s international channel Press-TV — which broadcasts in French and English — as “the producer and broadcaster of the largest number of forced confessions and defamatory programs against Iranian activists and civil society.”
The JFI has over the last years recorded the broadcast of at least 70 Iranian detainees’ forced confessions by Press TV, it said.
JFI Co-Director Mohammad Nayyeri called on the European Union to suspend the entry of IRIB-affiliated officials and reporters into Europe as well as their operations until the practice is stopped.
“Iran has long escaped responsibility for coercing forced confessions,” he said.
“While Iran’s state-run television is constantly airing programs that are the product of torture and intimidation, IRIB reporters freely travel and operate in Europe without any consequences,” he said.
The FIDH and JFI argued the international community should recognize the broadcast of forced confessions could constitute a form or torture and urged foreign states to adopt laws to prosecute those responsible, under the principle of universal jurisdiction.


250,000 pages of Palestinian history digitized and accessible for all

Updated 13 min 3 sec ago

250,000 pages of Palestinian history digitized and accessible for all

  • King Abdul Aziz Public Library is striving to preserve Arab and Islamic heritage

JEDDAH/RIYADH: The largest documented archive of Jerusalem’s history in the Arab Union Catalog is now available through the work led by the King Abdul Aziz Public Library (KAPL).

In cooperation with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), KAPL has helped to gather 820 records of the Jerusalem Shariah Court, each record containing between 150 to 500 pages, to form the database of the Palestinian libraries in the Arab Union Catalog.

The archive, which amounts to more than 250,000 pages in books, maps and manuscripts, covers Jerusalem’s history since 1528 and is available at the UNRWA Libraries Network.

KAPL, through the Arab Union Catalog, provided the technical capabilities to the information specialists of the education program, setting up the network to benefit libraries and Arab and Islamic culture.

Arab and Islamic heritage are the main pillars of KAPL’s work. On Palestine, the library has a large database of books, documents and maps. It has published a large illustrated volume entitled “Al-Aqsa,” which presents holy sites, heritage sites and the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosques. It also includes a large collection of rare documents and photographs.

Historical images of societies are part of their heritage and the global community. They tell of a people’s story and achievements, their suffering and loss, and serve as a vital element of communal identity.

Speaking about the importance of heritage conservation, Majed Al-Ahdal, an avid supporter of documenting antiquities, told Arab News that “documentation, in principle, is a manifestation of humanity and civilization; it’s a human condition that expresses the life of the individual and his or her deep desire for immortality.”

Today, few would disagree with the importance of documentation as a means of preserving the physical and intangible heritage. Through its various cultural projects, KAPL has documented Arab intellectual creativity, amassing a collection of more than 3 million books, journals, documents, manuscripts and rare photographs.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Through its various projects, KAPL has documented Arab intellectual creativity, amassing a collection of more than 3 million books, journals, documents, manuscripts and rare photographs.

• On Palestine, the library has a large database of books, documents and maps.

The digitizing of the archives will preserve and enrich Arab and Islamic culture and its sources.

“Documentation today is a means of surviving the historical and identity erosion of any one human being,” said Al-Ahdal.

Hundreds of photographs have been found of the old city of Jerusalem, which are an important form of documentation and can play a role in conservation efforts.

“It is a powerful tool on which many engineering and artistic applications can be built. It is one of the most important ways in which physical heritage can be remodeled in the event of damage or destruction caused by natural disasters or the devastation caused by human conflict, with the assistance of 3D modeling software and other engineering applications.”

He said that photography can offer a reliable record of buildings, decorations, people’s costumes, society’s customs, and colors that can be difficult to describe and document in other ways.

“Promoting historical written and oral blogs with visual documents helps to get more precise view of our Arab and Islamic history.”

In 2009, the UNRWA archive was inscribed by UNESCO in the Memory of the World Register for collecting a rich audiovisual archive of film and photography that contains more than 10,000 prints, 85,000 slides and more than 70 films on the life and history of the Palestinian people.