Iran: Authorities must investigate deaths in custody and respect the right to protest

ARTICLE 19 is concerned with a crackdown in Iran following the widespread protests that broke out on 28 December 2017  resulting in mass arrests without formal charges or fair trials, deaths in custody and fears of torture. Since 6 January, the Iranian authorities confirmed that at least three arrested protesters have died while in custody — Sina Ghanbari, Vahid Heidari and one other unnamed prisoner. ARTICLE 19 calls on the Iranian authorities to conduct a full, independent investigation into all deaths in custody, as well as those of the 21 protesters killed last week, and respect all human rights of protesters.

In a statement last week, ARTICLE 19 condemned the Iranian authorities’ violence towards protests across Iran. Severe repression at the hands of security forces resulted in 21 reported deaths and 3,700 arrests according to a member of parliament. Rather than facilitating peaceful protests, the Iranian government is violating the right to protest.

Reports that authorities are detaining protesters in unofficial detention centres, similar to the now closed Kahrizak detention centre in south Tehran in 2009, are heightening concerns of human rights violations similar to those committed following the 2009 protests where numbers of detained protesters were raped, tortured and killed.

Iran’s international obligations to protect human rights in protest

ARTICLE 19 calls on the Iranian Government to immediately release all protesters in detention and respect the right to protest, as explicitly acknowledged by President Rouhani in his statement on 31 December 2017, and more recently by the Supreme Leader, Seyyed Ali Khamenei on 9 January 2018, who for the first time said citizens had the right to voice their legitimate concerns. “Iran must guarantee human rights protections so that the fundamental right to protest can be realised by all people in Iran. The Government must also ensure that conditions are in place to enable all people to express legitimate criticism of government policies”, said ARTICLE 19’s Executive Director, Thomas Hughes.

Iran’s international obligations to respect the right to fair trial

ARTICLE 19 is concerned at reports that more than 3,700 protesters currently detained across the country since last week’s protests are being held without charge for exercising their human rights and being denied the right to a fair trial.

Iranian human rights lawyers are concerned about the lack of any fair trial process following mass arrests. For example, Nasrin Sotoudeh reported in the Guardian: “When authorities resort to mass arrests, they cannot claim to protect their rights. It is not possible in such a situation for the judicial process to take its due course.” Detainees lack access to lawyers, with many human rights lawyers behind bars, and are denied access to their families.

Authorities must investigate deaths fully

ARTICLE 19 calls on the Iranian government to undertake an immediate, independent and effective investigation into the deaths of Sina Ghanbari, Vahid Heidari and the other protester who died in prison this week; and bring perpetrators and those responsible for the deaths to justice.

Furthermore, authorities must investigate the 21 deaths of protesters following 31 December and the lethal violence imposed by law enforcement agencies across 20 Iranian cities to oppress peaceful protests.