Fifteen human rights groups have urged international organizations to take action to stop Iran's persecution of witnesses testifying against its violations.
In a statement released on April 7, the fifteen rights organizations which include Amnesty International, Frontline Defenders, and Together Against the Death Penalty (EPCM) urged international bodies, such as the United Nations, to take action to stop Iran's harassment and persecution of witnesses and their families who testified at the Iran Atrocities (Aban) Tribunal last year.
The Tribunal's hearings were held in London in November 2021 and February 2022 and heard evidence from 55 witnesses including protesters, torture survivors, healthcare workers, and former security and judicial officials, as well as relatives of protesters and bystanders who were shot dead during the November 2019 protests.
The signatories of the statement said Iran’s intelligence ministry and other security forces have subjected at least six Tribunal witnesses and/or their families to a litany of abuses since shortly after the first set of public hearings.
These abuses, they said, included arbitrary arrest and detention, prosecution on vaguely worded national security related charges, threatening telephone calls, summoning for coercive interrogations, and raids on their homes and places of work. Such abuses have intensified following the second set of hearings in February, the rights organizations said.
Since November 2021, at least six witnesses and their families have been subjected to arbitrary arrest and detention, violence, unjust prosecution, summoning for coercive interrogations, death threats, and other forms of harassment, the rights organizations said in their statement.
The ,mother of a victim killed in November 2019 testifying in the Tribunal. November 10, 2021
Some families have also agreed to give false video statements under duress by security forces for fear of their families’ safety. "These violations constitute a form of torture, or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment,” the signatories of the statement said.
One of the victims is Amin Ansarifar, whose son Farzad Ansarifar was killed by security forces on November 16, 2019 in Behbahan. Ansarifar and his family have been subjected to harassment since he testified at the hearings at the tribunal in November.
Amin Ansarifar was arrested on February 19, 2022 for “spreading propaganda against the system”, the family's house was raided, and Arman Ansarifar, the family's other son, was arrested. The father and son were subsequently sentenced to three months in prison and a five-year ban on travelling abroad.
The authorities also accused Farzaneh Ansarifar, Ansarifar's daughter, of spearheading her father’s participation at the Tribunal. She has now been sentenced to four years and six months in prison for her Instagram posts regarding her brother's death.
The parents of Aram Madoukhi who fled Iran after taking part in the November 2019 protests in Sanandaj, Kurdistan province, have also faced relentless harassment and intimidation by the intelligence ministry since he testified at the tribunal.
Intelligence agents told the family that their son was still "within the grasp of the Iranian authorities" even outside the country and could face the fate of dissident journalist Rouhollah Zam, who was abducted by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards during a visit to Iraq in 2019 and was executed later.
In an apparent attempt to call into question the validity of his testimony and the legitimacy of the overall proceedings, the Mardoukhi family were pressured to consent to video-taped "interviews" in which they were instructed to say that their son had lied during his testimony and had been paid to testify before the Tribunal. Intelligence agent eventually managed to extract such false statements from Habibollah Mardoukhi, Aram's father.