Iran’s security forces repressing widespread protests have unlawfully killed, tortured, sexually assaulted, and disappeared children as part of a pattern of serious violations, Human Rights Watch said today.

Iranian authorities have also arrested, interrogated, and prosecuted children in violation of legal safeguards, and judges have barred children’s families from hiring lawyers of their choice to defend them, convicted children on vague charges, and tried them outside of the youth courts that have sole jurisdiction over children’s cases. Security forces have arrested and detained children without notifying their families, sometimes for weeks. Students released from detention have been barred from returning to school, or authorities have cut off their families’ social welfare, resulting in the children having to go to work.

“Iranian leaders have unleashed their brutal security forces to sexually assault and torture children, and have not spared children from ludicrously unfair trials,” said Tara Sepehri Far, senior Iran researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Over the past seven months, the authorities have not hesitated to extend the coercive power of the state to silence even children.”

Human Rights Watch investigated abuses against 11 children between September 2022 and February 2023, and documented new details about two previously reported cases.

Iranian authorities have brutally repressed widespread protests and dissent by people demanding fundamental change. Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and other rights groups have documented the prevalent use of lethal force against protesters, including children. The United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on Iran should investigate these grave abuses against children as part of its broader reporting on the Iranian government’s serial human rights violations, Human Rights Watch said.

Human Rights Watch documented government security forces restraining, blindfolding, and torturing children in detention. Authorities beat and sexually assaulted a 17-year-old boy, bruising him all over and causing bleeding from his anus, a family member said. A high school student said that security forces pushed her onto a lit gas range during arrest, setting her clothing on fire, and beat and whipped her during interrogation. Interrogators tortured another boy by shoving needles under his nails. Two children were tortured to provide the whereabouts of family members. A 16-year-old has tried twice to take his own life after being beaten, electroshocked, and sexually assaulted.

The authorities have failed to provide medical treatment to children the forces injured, including a 13-year-old boy whose rib was broken during a beating. Authorities threatened family members to keep quiet about the abuses. These abuses are consistent with dozens of other accounts reported by activists and rights groups.

Under Iranian law, children may be questioned only by specialized children’s prosecutors and tried only before youth courts. In one case involving 16 defendants, including three children, the head of Iran’s judiciary co-appointed a revolutionary court judge, a cleric, as a youth justice judge. But none of the defendants were granted youth-court protections or allowed to hire their own defense lawyers, and the children were sentenced to 25 years in prison. Iran’s Supreme Court overturned the convictions of the three boys, citing a lack of evidence, but ordered their retrials by the same judge, who then sentenced them to 3, 5 and 10 years in prison.

An Iranian lawyer said that he was aware of 28 children who had been charged with “enmity against God” and “corruption on earth,” vague crimes that can be punished by death or amputation of the right hand and left foot.

By early April 2023, Iranian rights groups had recorded the killings of 537 people by security forces in the context of protests that began in late August 2022 following the death of Mahsa Jina Amini in police custody, including at least 68 children. Human Rights Watch previously reported the deaths of children including 16-year-old Nika Shakarami, whose family found her body 10 days after she disappeared during protests in Tehran on September 20, and 16-year-old Sarina Esmailzadeh, who died after being beaten by security forces on September 23, in Gohardasht, Alborz province. Iranian authorities claimed that both girls died by jumping or falling from buildings and have harassed and detained family members.

“Children who have experienced horrific abuses in detention and at trial risk long-lasting harm,” said Bill Van Esveld, associate children’s rights director at Human Rights Watch. “The United Nations Fact-Finding Mission should prioritize investigating these abuses and recommend a path to accountability.”

Source » reliefweb