Amnesty International said that Iran’s Revolutionary Guards illegally used lethal force to subdue unarmed fuel porters in Saravan, Sistan and Baluchestan province, last month, in violation of international law.
The rights group used eyewitness testimony and video footage to determine that Revolutionary Guards at Shamsar military base fired live ammunition at unarmed fuel porters from the impoverished Baluchi minority, killing several, including a teenager, and injuring many more.
The porters were protesting the unannounced closure of the border, which left them unable to complete their job and without much food or water.
Toiling for Bread in Sistan and Baluchistan
Amnesty’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa Diana Eltahawy said: “By opening fire on a group of unarmed people, Iranian security forces have displayed a callous disregard for human life. There must be urgent, independent criminal investigations into these unlawful killings, in line with international law and standards. Anyone against whom there is sufficient admissible evidence must be prosecuted in a fair trial, without resorting to the death penalty.”
The province’s deputy governor Mohamad Hadi Marashi said that the security forces’ “honour” was at risk, which is why they started shooting, but this was actually just an admission that they were not at risk of death or serious injury, which is the only time that international law permits the use of lethal force.
Eltahawy said: “The official justification the Iranian authorities have given for their deadly use of live ammunition reflects their complete disregard for international standards on the use of firearms. It also shows a shameless contempt for their obligations to respect and preserve human life and to ensure that public officials do not carry out extrajudicial executions by illegal use of firearms.”
One relative of a victim told Amnesty that families and injured victims were forced to sign a statement saying that the Revolutionary Guards were not responsible before bodies can be released or they were allowed to access medical care.
Eltahawy said: “When security forces wilfully and unlawfully use firearms against unarmed people, they either intend to kill or do not care whether their actions are likely to cause death. In either case, under international law, the killings resulting from their unlawful actions are considered not accidental, but deliberate, and should, therefore, be investigated as extrajudicial executions.”
The Military Prosecutor has reportedly opened a criminal case regarding the killings, but international law does not allow for military courts to investigate human rights violations and, given the lack of an independent judiciary, Amnesty has serious concerns about the impartiality of this trial.
Amnesty urged the international community to push for truth from Iran, including an accurate body count.