Amnesty International this week criticized Iran for stopping families questioning the circumstances of under-18s’ deaths in current unrest.

Amnesty said it had identified 13 cases in which security forces had “subjected them to coercion including arbitrary arrest and detention” or had made “ threats to bury the bodies of their loved ones in [an] unidentified location.” There had also been “been threats to kill, rape, detain or otherwise harm bereaved parents and their surviving children.”

Forty-four under-18s – children and teenagers had been killed either as protestors or bystanders, the group said Friday. This was 14 percent of a total 300 deaths Amnesty refers to, a figure that appeared not to include the 61 dead members of security forces or state employees given by Norway-based group HRANA this week. HRANA put the number of dead protestors at 475.

Of the 44 under-18s killed, said Amnesty 18 were Baluchi, of which 13 were killed on September 30 in Zahedan, when violence broke out around a Sunni mosque. Ten of the under 18s were Kurds. Over half therefore – 60 percent – were from the most restive parts of Iran, where non-Persians are also part of the minority Sunni sect. The other 16 were killed in six provinces elsewhere in Iran.

Amnesty quoted a relative of a young person killed in Sistan-Baluchistan province saying the testimonies of witnesses were deemed “worthless” as Baluchis were not considered human. In nine cases of under-18s killed in Sistan-Baluchistan, Iran has told the United National Human Rights Council there was no record of their deaths.

Heba Morayef, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa

Victims overwhelmingly male

The 44 under-18 victims verified by Amnesty were overwhelmingly (39) male, with the youngest aged two. Of the five females, one was 17, three 16, and one aged six. Thirty-four were shot with live ammunition, four killed by metal pellets, “five died from injuries consistent with fatal beatings, and one girl was killed after being struck on the head with a tear gas canister.”

Heba Morayef, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, said a UN fact-finding mission on authorities’ actions during the protests, set up in November, should lead “all states to exercise universal jurisdiction to criminally investigate Iranian officials involved in militarized attacks on demonstrators, including children.”

Javaid Rahman, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, has also called for the application of universal jurisdiction against individuals by both national and international courts. But there is widespread international skepticism of the UN probe, partly due to its main sponsor the US having a long history of opposition to international jurisdiction, and little expectation it will lead to judicial proceedings.

Javaid Rahman, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Iran

Immunity to prosecution?

While Washington had levied further sanctions on Iran over ‘human rights,’ it has long refused to join the International Criminal Court. The Biden administration recently told a US court that Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman, believed by US intelligence to have ordered the killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, is “immune from prosecution” as Saudi prime minister.

Twitter posts Friday alleged attendance was restricted at the funeral of a 23-year-old man hanged in Iran the previous day after conviction in a Revolutionary Court over a knife attack on a member of a Basji security group. Social media also carried footage said to be people in the man’s neighborhood chanting they would “kill the one who killed out brother” and threatening the death of Ali Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader.

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