New Report by Javaid Rehman: Iran’s IRGC, Basij, and Police Opened Deadly Fire on Protesters

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Javaid Rahman, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran
Javaid Rahman, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran

By Pooya Stone

A new report by Javaid Rahman, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, reveals other dimensions of the crimes of the Iranian security forces.

In a new report, the Special Rapporteur revealed that the Iranian government dealt violently with protesters over the high price of gasoline in November 2019, killing hundreds, detaining thousands, torturing them, and imposing harsh sentences. Execution sentences were also handed down by unjust courts.

“The Special Rapporteur is alarmed by the unprecedented violent crackdown against protesters across the Islamic Republic of Iran in November 2019. Excessive force by State security forces has led to hundreds of deaths and injuries and thousands of arrests.

“Detained protesters have faced torture and ill-treatment, with some receiving harsh sentences, including the death penalty, after unfair trials. While the Government has created a victim compensation scheme and ordered investigations, those processes lack transparency and independence and are failing to hold perpetrators of human rights violations to account. Victims’ families have also reportedly faced harassment by authorities for speaking out.

“The violent response to the January 2020 protests concerning the shooting down of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 demonstrated that the Government continues to use excessive force to suppress freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

In the new report to the 75th General Assembly of the United Nations, Rehman stressed that he was “shocked” by the “unprecedented use of excessive and lethal force” against the protesters by the police, the IRGC, and the Basij during the November 2019 protests.

“The Special Rapporteur expresses his shock at the unprecedented use of excessive and lethal force by State security forces during the November 2019 protests, including by the police, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its Basij militia. According to credible sources, at least 304 people, including 23 children and 10 women, were killed between 15 to 19 November 2019 in 37 cities across the Islamic Republic of Iran, although the death toll is believed to be much higher. Most of the deaths were reported in Tehran (130) and Alborz (33) provinces, as well as the majority ethnic minority provinces of Khuzestan (57) and Kermanshah (30).

“The Special Rapporteur expresses his particular alarm at the reported arbitrary use by security forces of firearms that killed at least 22 boys and 1 girl. On 16 November, 15-year-old Mohammad Dastankhah was shot dead, while returning from school in Sadra, by Basij forces shooting from their building rooftop. A 17-year-old boy, Mohsen Mohammadpour, also died after suffering head injuries during protests in Khorramshahr.

Mohammad Dastankhah and Mohsen Mohammadpour
Mohammad Dastankhah and Mohsen Mohammadpour

“Analysis of nearly half the victims’ corpses reveals they were shot in the head or neck in at least 66 cases and in the chest or heart in at least 46 cases. The pattern of shooting at vital organs, established by eyewitness accounts, video footage, and the documented causes of deaths, demonstrates that security forces were “shooting to kill” or with reckless disregard as to whether their actions caused death.”

While criticizing the regime’s common yet irresponsible behavior, he said: “The Government denied responsibility for protesters’ deaths, stating that firearms had been used by “rioters” and “agents of foreign enemies” and not State security forces, or, contradictorily, that security forces had used lethal force but that it had been justified as armed protesters had posed a threat to life or property. In its comments, the Government reasserted that law enforcement had exercised “maximum restraint”.

“Information received disputes those assertions. First, video footage and eyewitness testimonies confirm that police, Basij, and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps security forces had been the entities to use firearms on unarmed and peaceful protesters who posed no imminent threat to life. Evidence supporting that finding included accounts that those shooting at protesters had worn security force uniforms, shot from government buildings, and used weapons and equipment associated with security forces. While the Government claimed a “large number” had been killed by non-government-issued weapons, no corroborating evidence was provided.”

The report was submitted to the Secretary-General on 21 July 2020 for submission to the General Assembly. The UN General Assembly begins on September 15 with the participation of the Heads of State.

Two days ago, Amnesty International issued a detailed report on the November protests, alleging “rape, enforced disappearances, torture, and other ill-treatment” of protesters over the price of gasoline.

During the November protests, Iran’s internet was cut off in an unprecedented way, and the means of communication and transmission of news were very limited.

Summary of Javaid Rehman’s report on the November 2019 protests

Most of the deaths are related to the two neighboring provinces of Tehran with 130 people and Alborz with 33 people killed.

Also, in the two minority provinces of Khuzestan with 57 dead and Kermanshah with 30 people, most casualties have been recorded.

An examination of nearly half of the bodies showed that 66 people had been shot in the head or neck, and 46 had been shot in the heart and chest.

This shows that the security forces fired with the intention of killing or that the lives and deaths of the people were insignificant to them. The families of the victims have been threatened to keep silent.

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