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Amnesty International Condemns Use Of Live Ammo In Iran Protests

Amnesty International has condemned the use of live ammunition against protesters in Iran in recent days as “a horrifying violation of the authorities’ obligation to human life.”

Security forces have shot dead eight citizens during protests that erupted in Iran’s Khuzestan Province on July 15, triggered by severe water shortage, and since have spread to other provinces. Tehran has deployed special riot police and has brought additional Revolutionary Guard forces to the region. Disturbing images of dead protesters are circulated on social media.

In a statement on Friday Amnesty International (AI) said that Iran’s security forces have used “unlawful force, including by firing live ammunition and birdshot, to crush mostly peaceful protests taking place across the southern province of Khuzestan...Video footage from the past week, coupled with consistent accounts from the ground, indicate security forces used deadly automatic weapons, shotguns with inherently indiscriminate ammunition, and tear gas to disperse protesters.”

An unknown number of protesters have been injured by live ammunition, some severely, and many others detained. The fate of the detainees remains unclear as the government has special rules to withhold information and deny visitation to family members and defense attorneys sometimes for months.

“Using live ammunition against unarmed protesters posing no imminent threat to life is a horrifying violation of the authorities’ obligation to protect human life. Protesters in Iran who take to the streets to voice legitimate economic and political grievances face a barrage of gunfire, tear gas, and arrests,” said Diana Eltahawy, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

Although demonstrations by mostly young people started as protest to lack of water, deep-running grievances of government mismanagement toward environmental problems, poverty and unemployment fuel anger among residents. In one video, a protester is heard shouting at a security agent not to shoot at him, saying, “Swear to God I am unemployed. I want my rights. I am 22 years old. Don't shoot. Be a man. Have some honor."

AI called on Iranian authorities “to immediately cease the use of automatic weapons and shotguns firing birdshot, which are indiscriminate, cause grievous and painful injuries and are completely inappropriate for use in all policing situations.” It also demanded the release of all detainees who “peacefully” exercise “their right to freedom of expression and assembly and protect all detainees from torture and other ill-treatment.”

The statement also includes video evidence of live ammunition being used by security forces and points to Iran’s “harrowing” track record for using unlawful force” during nationwide protests in November 2019, when security forces killed hundreds of protesters, mostly by gunfire.

“We have called time and time again for an end to the systematic impunity that continues to perpetuate cycles of bloodshed, as seen in the brutal crackdown on protests in Khuzestan. The UN Human Rights Council must urgently establish a mechanism to collect and analyse evidence of the most serious crimes under international law to facilitate fair and independent criminal proceedings,” said Diana Eltahawy.

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