(CNN) — Iranian authorities have used torture methods including sexual violence against imprisoned children as part of a crackdown on recent protests, according to rights group Amnesty International.
"Iran's intelligence and security forces have been committing horrific acts of torture, including beatings, flogging, electric shocks, rape, and other sexual violence against child protesters as young as 12 to quell their involvement in nationwide protests," Amnesty said Thursday.
A report by the group exposed "the torture methods that the Revolutionary Guards, the paramilitary Basij, the Public Security Police, and other security and intelligence forces used against boys and girls in custody to punish and humiliate them and to extract forced 'confessions.'"
Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty International's Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, said Iran's "violence against children exposes deliberate strategy to crush the vibrant spirit of the country's youth and stop them from demanding freedom and human rights."
Amnesty "obtained testimonies from the victims and their families, as well as further testimonies on the widespread commission of torture against scores of children from 19 eyewitnesses, including two lawyers and 17 adult detainees who were held alongside children," the human rights group said.
The protests were first ignited by the death of 22-year-old Iranian Mahsa Amini, who died on September 16, 2022, after being detained by the country's morality police.
According to Amnesty, Iran has admitted to detaining more than 22,000 people during the protests, but hasn't specified how many of those were children. The group estimates that thousands of children may be among the detainees.
Amnesty also said that "state agents used rape and other sexual violence, including electric shocks to genitals, touching genitals, and rape threats as a weapon against child detainees to break their spirits, humiliate, and punish them, and/or extract 'confessions.'"
"Other torture methods recounted include floggings, administering electric shocks using stun guns, the forced administration of unidentified pills, and holding children's heads underwater," the Amnesty report added.
Amnesty called on Iran to release any children detained for protesting peacefully, and urged other countries to "exercise universal jurisdiction over Iranian officials, including those with command or superior responsibility, reasonably suspected of criminal responsibility for crimes under international law, including the torture of child protesters."
CNN has reached out to Iran's government for comment but has not yet had a response, nor has the government yet commented publicly on the report.
In February, CNN revealed the existence of an extensive network of illegal clandestine jails, or black sites, in Iran.
The methods of repression and torture carried out in this shadowy network appear to be even more horrific than the regular harsh treatment that arrested protesters can expect in legal detention sites.
CNN has reached out to the Iranian government for comment on the allegations of torture and abuse at these unofficial locations but has not received a response.
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