HRW report says Iran intensified campaign of torture, arbitrary arrests
The Iranian government has intensified its campaign of torture, arbitrary arrests, and detentions against political critics, Human Rights Watch said in a report released Monday. Iran’s outgoing reformist parliament in May passed legislation to prohibit torture, but without effective implementation, the law remains an empty gesture.
Claims that reforms in Iran have put an end to torture are simply false. "More than ever, journalists, intellectuals and activists are afraid to voice opinions critical of the government," the report added.
The 73-page report, “Like the Dead in Their Coffins: Torture, Detention, and the Crushing of Dissent in Iran,” claims it provides the first comprehensive account of the treatment of political detainees in Tehran’s Evin Prison and in secret prisons around the capital since the government launched its current crackdown in 2000. Human Rights Watch has documented systematic abuses against political detainees, including arbitrary arrest, detention without trial, torture to extract confessions, prolonged solitary confinement, and physical and psychological abuse.
“Claims that reforms in Iran have put an end to torture are simply false,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa Division. “More than ever, journalists, intellectuals and activists are afraid to voice opinions critical of the government.”
The Iranian government’s use of these harsh techniques has largely squelched the country’s political opposition and independent media. Faced with increasing political pressure for reform in the past four years, the government has intensified its campaign against dissent, the report added. As of June, the government has closed virtually all independent newspapers, several key journalists and writers have fled the country, many prominent writers and activists have been imprisoned, and scores of student activists have been intimidated into ending their involvement in peaceful political activity.
The report documents the systematic use of prolonged solitary confinement as a tool to break the will of dissidents, and as a means to extract forced confessions. Individuals interviewed for the report, including a number of writers and journalists, told Human Rights Watch about "brutal interrogations" in which they were blindfolded, physically threatened, and forced to recant their political views. Former detainees also described basement solitary cells where they were left for weeks at a time without any human contact, and threats by judges that if they did not confess, they would be held in solitary confinement indefinitely.
The report also describes in detail the plainclothes intelligence agencies that work for the judiciary and are directly responsible for detaining and torturing those who criticize the government. These agencies often operate outside of, or parallel to, the established administrative structure of government and report directly to Iran’s religious leadership. The members of these “parallel forces,” whom former detainees describe as foot soldiers in the campaign against dissent, have not been held accountable for their acts. (Albawaba.com)
© 2004 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)