Human Rights Watch (HRW) has slammed Iran’s use of torture and abuse to extract forced confessions from prisoners detained during anti-government protests, and appealed to Tehran to ensure defendants received fair trials.
In a statement issued by the group on Friday, HRW also condemned Tehran’s use of “vaguely defined” charges against detainees, and their heavily restricted access to proper legal counsel.
Amnesty International reported that at least 304 demonstrators were killed, and many thousands more detained, in November 2019 when economic protests in Iran morphed into widespread anti-regime demonstrations. HRW said security forces used “excessive force” and “mass arrest of protestors” to suppress the protests.
Some of those arrested in November 2019, as well as protestors from previous years, now face the “vaguely defined national security charge” of “sowing corruption on earth,” a crime that can carry the death penalty.
These defendants, however, have been denied access to a fair legal process.
HRW’s statement said: “Defendants have had restricted access to lawyers and alleged that the authorities tortured or abused them to produce coerced confessions.”
Tara Sepehri Far, a researcher on Iran at HRW, said: “Iran’s version of ‘accountability’ is apparently sentencing people involved in protests in unfair trials rather than investigating the overwhelming evidence of security forces’ excessive use of force and the death of hundreds of protestors who were shot dead.”
She added: “The judiciary should immediately repeal the recent death sentences and guarantee a fair trial to those who are facing allegations of recognizable crimes.”
Iran’s Supreme Court recently upheld the death sentences of three young men who participated in the November protests on charges of “taking part in destruction and burning, aimed at countering the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
Lawyers for the young protestors said their requests to read the indictments and charge sheets were denied, and that they had not been allowed to submit a defense on behalf of their clients.
“Fair trial and due process are essential for anyone accused of a crime, but in cases that carry the death penalty, their lack can lead to grave and irreversible injustice,” Sepehri Far said.
“Executing people who took their frustrations over corrupt and unaccountable government officials to the street only adds insult to injury for those being crushed by the deteriorating economic situation.”
Iran has a dismal reputation globally for human rights and is infamous for the cruel treatment political prisoners and protestors receive in the country. HRW said Tehran’s tight control of public spaces has only become more severe as “as broad US sanctions impact Iranians’ access to health and essential medicines.”