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February 15, 2011

Crackdown Underway with Mass Jailings and Threats against Opposition Leaders


In the wake of yesterday’s massive protests, a major crackdown appears to be underway.  Radio Zameneh is reporting 1,500 people were arrested in yesterday’s demonstrations and transferred to Evin Prison.  Officials are reportedly refusing to inform families about the status of their loved ones, and “special guards” even attacked and dispersed family members who gathered in front of the Revolutionary Court.
This comes just hours after 221 hard-line Iranian parliamentarians called for the trial and execution of opposition leaders Mir Hussein Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi, and even former President Mohammad Khatami.  The large group of lawmakers shouted “death to Mousavi, Karroubi and Khatami,” pumping their fists in unison.  Maintaining that they were responding to pressure from some unseen constituency, the MPs said they “believe the people have lost their patience and demand capital punishment” for the opposition leaders.
While conservative politicians have long called for the opposition leaders to be put on trial, today’s statement at a minimum represents a serious escalation in their attempts to intimidate the opposition into silence.
Considering the mass arrests and Iran’s recent “execution binge,” this could also mark the beginning of an even more egregious campaign of human rights abuses and repression by the Iranian government.
What is clear is that greater attention and action is needed by the international community to address this human rights crisis.
In just a couple weeks, there is a critical opportunity for the US to work with the international community to establish a human rights monitor to provide much needed international scrutiny of the Iranian government’s abuses.
International scrutiny on Iran’s abuses can extend needed protection to the Iranian people, including human rights defenders and democracy activists. The Brookings Institute has documented how these human rights monitors have a measurable impact to reduce human rights violations in trouble spots around the world. But while there are eight such monitors in place, there has not been one for Iran since 2002.
The Iranian people deserve the protection that international attention and pressure can provide in the face of an increasingly abusive regime.  If ever there was a time for the UN Human Rights Council to act, now is it.

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