Amnesty International has urged authorities in Iran to immediately provide information about hundreds of members of the Arab ethnic minority who have reportedly being held incommunicado following a deadly attack in the southwestern city of Ahvaz in September.
The London-based human rights watchdog made the call on November 13 following reports that 22 men have been executed "in secret" over the previous days. Iranian officials have dismissed those reports.
If confirmed, the secret executions of these men would be "not only a crime under international law but also an abhorrent violation of their right to life and a complete mockery of justice," said Philip Luther, Amnesty International's research and advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa.
Up to 600 ethnic Arabs have been detained without access to their families or lawyers since September 24, according to Amnesty International, following an armed attack that claimed at least 25 lives in Ahvaz, the capital of the southwestern oil-producing province of Khuzestan, two days earlier.
Iran has blamed the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz (ASMLA), a group seeking a separate state for ethnic Arabs in Khuzestan, for the September 22 attack. ASMLA has condemned the violence and said it was not involved.
Khuzestan Province's governor told state-run media earlier this week that reports of 22 detainees being executed were "complete lies," and said that those arrested in connection with the Ahvaz attack had been charged.
Amnesty International called on the Iranian authorities to disclose the fate of all the detainees, give the families and their lawyers access to them, and ensure they are protected from torture and other ill-treatment.
"In the absence of any information about the whereabouts of the detainees feared killed, the governor's blanket denial will provide little comfort to families who have been unable to see or hear from their relatives since their arrests," Luther said.
Amnesty International also called on the authorities to release any ethnic Arabs "held solely for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression, association, or peaceful assembly or solely on account of their ethnic identity."
Iran must not use the attack in Ahvaz as "an excuse to carry out a purge against members of Iran's persecuted" Arab ethnic minority in Khuzestan Province, according to Luther.