UN must launch urgent probe into Iran violence: Amnesty

LONDON: Amnesty International has urged leaders at the UN General Assembly to call for an independent probe into violence in Iran in the wake of the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini.
The appeal follows waves of violence across the country, with security forces using lethal force to break up peaceful protests in support of Amini, who died in custody on Sept. 16 after allegedly suffering torture and physical abuse for three days.
“The global outpouring of rage and empathy over Mahsa Amini’s death must be followed by concrete steps by the international community to tackle the crisis of systemic impunity that has allowed widespread torture, extrajudicial executions and other unlawful killings by Iranian authorities to continue unabated both behind prison walls and during protests,” said Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa.
“The Iranian authorities’ latest brutal crackdown on protests coincides with Ebrahim Raisi’s speech at the UN. He has been given a platform on the world stage, despite credible evidence of his involvement in crimes against humanity, in a stark reminder of the devastating impact of the repeated failure of UN member states to tackle impunity for grave crimes in Iran.
“Iran’s security forces will continue to feel emboldened to kill or injure protesters and prisoners, including women arrested for defying abusive compulsory veiling laws, if they are not held accountable. With all avenues for accountability closed at the domestic level, the UN Human Rights Council has a duty to send a strong message to the Iranian authorities that those responsible for crimes under international law will not go unpunished.”
Amnesty gathered eyewitness accounts and analyzed protest videos. Its findings show that security forces used birdshot and other shells against peaceful protesters in a dramatic escalation of violence.
One source told Amnesty that during the first rounds of protests on Sept. 16, security forces in Saqqez fired birdshot at 18-year-old Nachirvan Maroufi, who lost sight in his right eye. Another man, Parsa Sehat, 22, lost sight in both eyes following a similar incident. 
“Riot police were repeatedly firing towards people from about 100 meters away,” said a source from the city of Kamyaran. “I myself witnessed at least 10 to 20 people who were shot with metal pellets … Most of them were injured in their backs as they were running away.” 
A source based in the city of Mahabad said: “In response to people chanting ‘Women, Life, Freedom’ and ‘Death to the Dictator,’ security forces fired weapons loaded with metal pellets, often from a distance of about 20 to 30 meters … They particularly targeted people in their head.”
Many protesters injured in the violence are believed to be avoiding hospital treatment as a result of fears of retribution by state authorities, Amnesty warned.
During later rounds of protests on Sept. 19, security forces violently arrested hundreds of demonstrators in cities across western Iran. 
Dozens of arrested protesters in Kamyaran were seen with fractured heads, limbs and bloodied bodies, one source said.

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