Iran in ‘full-blown human rights crisis’, says UN human rights chief

The UN rights chief called on Iran on Thursday to immediately end violence against protesters, as countries debated whether to launch an investigation into Tehran’s deadly crackdown.

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Volker Turk opened an emergency session of the UN Human Rights Council, where countries were called to discuss Iran’s “deteriorating human rights situation” and decide whether a high-level international inquiry is warranted.

The meeting, requested by Germany and Iceland with the support of more than 50 countries, follows two months of protests in Iran sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, after she was arrested for allegedly violating the country’s strict dress code for women based on Islamic Sharia law.

“I call on the authorities to immediately stop using violence and harassment against peaceful protesters,” said Turk, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

“The unnecessary and disproportionate use of force must end,” he said, warning that Iran was in “a full-blown human rights crisis.”

“Accountability is a key ingredient in the pursuit of justice for human rights abuses,” he told the 47-member council, urging the body to vote for an investigation.

Iranian authorities have become increasingly harsh in their response, as the demonstrations have spread across the country and swelled into a broad movement against the theocracy that has ruled Iran since 1979.

Turk said more than 300 people had been killed since Amini’s death. The Norwegian group Iran Human Rights has put the number at over 400, including more than 50 children.

“The security forces… have used live ammunition, birdshot and other metal pellets, tear gas and batons,” Turk said.

“Shine a Spotlight”

He also said that around 14,000 people, including children, have been arrested in connection with the protests, describing this as “a staggering number”.

At least six people have so far been sentenced to death in connection with the protests.

Diplomats were asked on Thursday to decide whether to set up a so-called independent international investigative mission into any abuses related to the ongoing protests.

The investigation will cover the “gender dimensions of such violations,” according to the draft resolution presented by Germany and Iceland.

The text calls on investigators to “collect, consolidate and analyze evidence of such violations and to preserve evidence,” with a view to future prosecutions.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, who like her Icelandic counterpart attended the session, emphasized that “the Iranian protesters have no place in the Human Rights Council in Geneva.”

Before it began, she urged the council to “raise its voice for the inalienable rights of the people of Iran.”

Diplomats and rights activists expressed strong support for the initiative.

“We must do everything we can to uncover the truth about what is happening in Iran and support the Iranian people’s calls for justice and accountability,” said US Ambassador Michele Taylor.

“Tale of Tyranny”

Turk said Iranian statements sought to “delegitimate and label protesters, civil society actors and journalists as agents of enemies and foreign states.”

“As we have seen throughout history, it is the typical story of tyranny,” he said, encouraging the Iranian leadership to respect fundamental freedoms and engage with citizens about their vision for the country.

“Change is inevitable. The way forward is meaningful reform,” he stressed.

In response, Khadijeh Karimi, Iran’s vice president for women and family affairs, hit back at the Western countries that called for the meeting.

Europe and the United States “lack the moral credibility to preach to others about human rights and request a special session on Iran,” she said.

Germany and Iceland received broad support for their request to hold Thursday’s session, including from more than a third of the council’s 47 members.

Western diplomats expressed cautious optimism that the resolution would pass, but acknowledged it could be tough.

Baerbock urged the council to vote in favor of the resolution.

“We owe it to the victims,” ​​she said. “Every vote counts.”


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