An Amnesty report published on 16 December revealed the extent of crackdowns in Iran in the wake of protests that took place from 15-18 November. The organisation carried out interviews with dozens of people inside Iran who gave details of detainees being held incommunicado, subjected to enforced disappearance, torture and other ill-treatment, before, during and after the protests.
Thousands of protestors, journalists and human rights defenders were arrested by security forces. The report estimates that at least 304 people were killed and thousands more were injured during the 3 days of protest due to the use of lethal force by authorities.
Amnesty urged Tehran to “urgently and unconditionally release all those who have been arbitrarily detained” and called on the UN to investigate the killings and other abuses.
“The world must not stand by in silence as the Iranian authorities continue to commit widespread human rights violations in their ruthless bid to crush dissent,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa research director.
Witness reports and video footage
Amnesty reports harrowing eyewitness accounts and verified video footage that shows Iranian security forces opening fire on unarmed protestors. The report concluded that the majority of the deaths occurred as a result of gunshots to the head, heart, neck and other vital organs demonstrating that security forces were shooting to kill.
Amongst the 304 deaths, the UN reports that at least 12 of those were children. Children as young as 15 have been detained alongside adults, in a prison that is known for torture and ill-treatment of detainees.
“Harrowing testimony from eyewitnesses suggests that, almost immediately after the Iranian authorities massacred hundreds of those participating in nationwide protests, they went on to orchestrate a wide-scale clampdown designed to instil fear and prevent anyone from speaking out about what happened,” said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Research Director at Amnesty International.
Iranian authorities have so far neglected to give a response as to the official number of those detained. The authorities have yet to provide an official figure. During the protest and ensuing clampdowns, government officials, including the Supreme Leader and the head of the judiciary, labelled protesters as “villains” and “rioters” and associated protesters with a wider global conspiracy involving foreign powers. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said on 27 November that “A deep, vast and very dangerous conspiracy that a lot of money had been spent on … was destroyed by the people,”
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet responded expressing alarm in a statement on 6 December,
“In such circumstances, with so many reported deaths, it is essential the authorities act with far greater transparency,”
She went on to call for all detained protestors to be released, and for the that the Iranian government ensure the right to due process and urged them to respect Iranian’s right to exercise freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
“I urge the authorities to immediately release from detention all protestors who have been arbitrarily deprived of their liberty, and to ensure their right to due process, including access to a lawyer of their choosing during the investigative stage.”
U.S. Special Representative for Iran, Brian Hook, held a press briefing at the State Department on 6 December and suggested that the number of protesters fallen victim to the “brutal crackdown” could “perhaps” stretch beyond 1,000.
“These protests have made clear what Secretary Pompeo and I have been saying for quite some time,” Hook said, adding,
“The Iranian people want the regime to focus on investing in people, not proxies.