Rights group: Iran covered up rape of detainees

AP News
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Posted: Nov 06, 2009 4:50 PM

An international human rights group said Friday it has documented three cases of sexual assault against detainees arrested during Iran's postelection turmoil, including one that was supported by an official report but not investigated further.

Human Rights Watch accused Iran's judiciary of covering up the abuses and called on it to immediately open investigations and prosecute those responsible.

Claims that detainees were raped by their jailers first emerged in August, deeply embarrassing Iran's clerical leadership in the midst of a crackdown on protesters who accused authorities of rigging President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's June 12 re-election.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch said one of the cases it documented was supported by a report from the medical examiner's office, which the group said reports to Iran's judiciary. Judicial authorities, however, refused to investigate further and threatened to arrest the detainee's family if they spoke out about the abuse, the group said.

"It's shameful for Iran's government to close its eyes to official evidence of severe sexual abuse of detainees by prison authorities," said Sarah Leah Whitson, the rights group's Middle East and North Africa director.

Human Rights Watch said the 27-year-old activist was first arrested on July 26 and held for a week. The group said officers believed to be from Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard military force seized him for a second time on Aug. 19 and held him at a location in Tehran, according to his family. The activist told the rights group he was severely beaten and sodomized with a baton or a stick.

Six days later, his captors left him _ bleeding, semiconscious and with his hands and feet bound _ on a street in the capital where bystanders found him and took him to a hospital.

The rights group said it saw a report from the medical examiner describing, among other injuries, bruises to his buttocks and anus from blows from a hard object that were consistent with the allegations of sexual assault.

Hospital officials tried to destroy the medical report, but his father was able to make a copy, the group said, adding that the activist has since left the country.

Human Rights Watch said another young activist told the group he was raped in custody while handcuffed, blindfolded and with his feet tied.

In a third case, a 21-year-old woman arrested July 30 told the group she was raped four times by prison guards.

Human Rights Watch named the activists, but The Associated Press does not identify rape victims as a matter of policy.

Claims that detainees were raped were first made in August by former Parliament speaker Mahdi Karroubi, who also ran in the presidential election and is part of Iran's pro-reform camp. Karroubi said at the time he received reports from former military commanders and freed prisoners that male and female detainees were savagely raped by their jailers to the point of physical and mental damage.

A government panel exonerated the regime and recommended that Karroubi himself be charged for making the allegations.