A Brief History of “House Arrests” and Detentions in “Safe Houses”: What Will Be the Fate of Disappeared Leaders?

Mar 7, 20110 comments

Excerpt can be found below. Click here to read the full article. Since 14 February, Iran’s intelligence and security agents have held four prominent opposition figures, Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi, Zahra Rahnavard and Fatemeh Karroubi, in incommunicado detention with no confirmation of their whereabouts. Several Iranian officials have insisted they are in their homes and under “house arrest.” However, credible reports indicate that they have been moved to a “safe house” or a secret detention center, possibly at Heshmatieh garrison in Tehran. Regardless of the location of the detentions, authorities are violating the due process rights of the detainees as they are being held, for weeks now, without formal arrest or charge, and without access to their families and lawyers. Under international law, the detention of the four opposition figures amounts to an “enforced disappearance.” This briefing paper provides a review of the “house arrest,” or detention in a “safe house,” of other prominent critics of the Islamic Republic during the past three decades. This history indicates that the majority of prominent persons thus detained were subjected to physical and psychological torture, and forced to make false confessions aired on state-controlled television, and that many of them died following lengthy detentions, and some were murdered. What is currently happening to the four disappeared opposition figures is cause for great concern regarding their safety and well-being in light of this history of torture, murder, and isolation of opponents in the Islamic Republic of Iran. House arrest: a method for silencing the political dissidents Over the past 32 years, Iranian security forces have widely relied on “house arrests,” detention in a “safe houses,” or in a “secret prison,” of prominent opponents who enjoy a wide social base, or who enjoy religious or partisan backing. Prominent Shi’a clerics who were suppressed during the first decade of the Islamic Revolution include: Ayatollah Kazem Shariatmadari, Ayatollah Montazeri, Ayatollah Sadegh Rohani, Seyed Hassan Ghomi, Seyed Mohammad Rohani, and Seyed Mohammad Shirazi, all high-ranking clerics who had many followers in their capacity as mara’je (Sources of Emulation, the highest Shi’a religious rank). In the summer of 2000, Mohammad Niazi, Head of the Armed Forces Judicial Organization, admitted the existence of “safe houses” belonging to intelligence agents under the command of Saeed Emami in Tehran. Emami led a team of intelligence operatives who murdered four prominent intellectuals in 1998, in what came to be known as “the chain murders.” Niazi told the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) that Emami, a deputy to the Intelligence Minister, and other officers of the Ministry had several “safe houses” all around Tehran. The houses, he said, were used for the detention and imprisonment of dissidents, and for meetings in which decisions were made during various stages of the chain murders of intellectuals. Reviewing the evidence and examples of “house arrest” and “detention inside safe houses” in Iran, it becomes evident that Islamic Republic rulers have taken advantage of these methods for cracking down on critics and dissidents. But while the two methods share many similarities, their implementation and objectives differ. The previous examples of “house arrest,” used mostly in the cases of high-ranking rival, dissident, or opposition clerics, demonstrate that in the “house arrest” method, creating limitations, severe security control measures, and the presence of security forces in the area surrounding the individual, aim to reduce his effectiveness in the society and among his supporters in the short run, and isolation and death in the long run. But in the case of “detention inside a safe house,” the victims are completely under the control of security and intelligence organizations and their holding locations are secret. Additionally, “safe houses” are used for breaking the spirit and will of individuals, through sever psychological manipulation and physical abuse. In all previous cases, intelligence agents have focused on obtaining “confession letters” or “video-taped confessions.” Public airing of such “confessions” aims to destroy the social and political base of the leading dissidents. Release from a “safe house” is directly related to the degree the detainee is coerced into cooperation. Lack of cooperation, such as in the case of Saeedi Sirjani (reviewed below) can lead to death following torture. Read more: http://www.iranhumanrights.org/2011/03/history-of-house-arrests/