Government must respect rights, show restraint in dealing with nationwide protests

Press release
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(Paris) The Iranian government must immediately and unconditionally release all individuals detained in connection with recent countrywide protests and launch independent and impartial investigations into all deaths that occurred during the demonstrations, FIDH and its member organization League for the Defence of Human Rights in Iran (LDDHI) said today.

“Instead of addressing the legitimate grievances of its people, the Iranian government has once again opted for a heavy-handed response to street protests. The international community should demand that the Iranian government’s response to the protests respect international standards and comply with its obligations under human rights treaties to which Iran is a state party.”

Karim Lahidji, FIDH Honorary President and LDDHI President

Since 28 December 2017, thousands of Iranian people have taken to the streets in the capital Tehran and more than 50 other cities and towns across the country to protest against the government’s economic mismanagement, corruption, and suppression of freedoms.

The protests initially began with demands concerning rising prices of food and basic commodities, widespread state corruption, and the high rate of unemployment. However, the demonstrations quickly featured calls for greater political freedom, the release of political prisoners, and accountability for long-standing repression. Protesters expressed their criticism of all ruling political factions, the judiciary, and other apparati of repression and made specific calls for the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei to step down. In some cities, protesters took down images of Ayatollah Khamenei, as well as of the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Scores of people are feared to have been killed in connection with the protests. While official sources have acknowledged 21 deaths, including two security agents and two children, one of whom was 11 years old, the actual numbers are likely higher. Hundreds more have been injured. According to official figures released by the government, more than 1,000 people, around 500 of whom in Tehran alone, were detained. The great majority of those detained in connection with the protests are below the age of 25. It is feared that the actual numbers of those detained could be significantly higher.

Based on the Iranian government’s systematic practice and the threats voiced by several of its high-ranking officials, a number of protesters could face the death penalty. FIDH and LDDHI urge the international community, and in particular the United Nations (UN) and the European Union, to be on alert against such threats.

In many instances, state-controlled forces, such as the paramilitary force Basij (‘Mobilization’), which operates under the control of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), used excessive force against the protesters. It was reported that Basij members were involved in destruction of property and arson attacks in various cities with the aim of providing justification for the heavy-handed suppression of the protests. Iranian authorities also blocked social media, in particular the messaging applications Telegram and Instagram, and censored privately-owned domestic media.

FIDH and LDDHI urge the Iranian government to ensure that law enforcement officials and other state agents act in accordance with international standards, such as the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, in dealing with protesters. [1]

The two organizations also call on the Iranian government to guarantee the right to freedom of opinion and expression, the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, and the right to freedom of association in accordance with its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Iran is a state party. They also call on the Iranian government to allow the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran and other UN special procedures access to the country.

The authorities must also immediately and unconditionally release all other prisoners of conscience.

Press contacts
FIDH: Mr. Andrea Giorgetta (English) - Tel: +66886117722 (Bangkok)
FIDH: Ms. Audrey Couprie (French, English) - Tel: + 33143551412 (Paris)
LDDHI: +33140941450 (Paris)
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