Torture in Iran

| Wed Jul. 8, 2009 3:35 PM EDT

For weeks, I have been reading Twitter messages from Iran with reports of opposition supporters being detained and beaten to extract forced confessions. Now Human Rights Watch confirms these accounts. From a statement accompanying a report it has released:

The Iranian authorities are using prolonged harsh interrogations, beatings, sleep deprivation, and threats of torture to extract false confessions from detainees arrested since the disputed June 12 presidential election, Human Rights Watch said today. The confessions appear designed to support unsubstantiated allegations by senior government officials that Iran's post-election protests, in which at least 20 people were killed, were supported by foreign powers and aimed at overthrowing the government.

One detail:

A 17-year-old boy who was arrested on June 27 and released on July 1 told Human Rights Watch how his prison interrogator forced him and others to sign a blank statement of confession:

"On the first day, while blindfolded, the interrogator took me to a parking garage. They kept everyone standing for 48 hours with no permission to sleep. On the first night, they tied up our hands and repeatedly beat us and other prisoners with a baton. They kept cursing at the prisoners. The atmosphere was very frightening. Everyone had wet themselves from fear and stress. There were children as young as 15 and men as old as 70; they'd be begging and crying for mercy, but the guards didn't care.

"After two days of interrogation while blindfolded, we were asked about everything: where we had studied, what our parents do, who we voted for, who is educated in the family, if anyone in our family is part of the military. We were forced to give the names of everyone. It was a scary situation because they were threatening us and were very harsh. All we could hear were other people crying and screaming.

"They provided us with a big piece of bread once, but no water. On the last day, they took away the blindfold to force us sign a paper that was blank on top but said at the bottom: ‘I agree with all of the above statements.'"

While many Americans have been obsesing over Sarah Palin or Michael Jackson, there have been a series of Stalinesque confessions broadcast on Iranian television:

State-backed media already have broadcast the confessions of some detainees. Amir Hossein Mahdavi, editor of reformist newspaper Andishe No, confessed on Iranian TV on June 27 that reformist groups had laid plans to create unrest before the June 12 elections. Friends of Mahdavi who saw his confession told Human Rights Watch that it was clear from his demeanor that he confessed under duress.

All of this violates Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a party. And the UN Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment states, "No detained person while being interrogated shall be subject to violence, threats or methods of interrogation which impair his capacity of decision or judgment." (The Bush administration clearly did not hold this accord dear.) Is any government going to raise Iran's treatment of opposition supporters at the UN?

You can follow David Corn's postings and media appearances via Twitter.