New York: Following calls from UN human rights chief Volker Türk for an independent investigation into ongoing deadly violence against protesters in Iran, the Human Rights Council has created a fact-finding mission, related to the protests that began on 16 September 2022.
The Council, meeting in special session in response to the crisis that was sparked by the death in September in police custody of 22-year-old Jina Mahsa Amini, heard Mr. Türk criticize “the fortress mentality of those who wield power” in Iran.
The “unnecessary and disproportionate use of force” must end, he insisted.
“It pains me to see what is happening in the country,” he told the packed chamber. “The images of children killed. Of women beaten in the streets. Of people sentenced to death.”
The UN High Commissioner highlighted how the security forces, “notably the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Basij forces have used live ammunition, birdshot and other metal pellets, teargas and batons” against the protest movement as it has spread to a reported 150 cities and 140 universities in all provinces of Iran.
Before calling for an independent probe into all alleged rights violations, the High Commissioner noted that his Office had received “multiple communications” from Iran about the episode, “including domestic investigations”.These efforts “have failed to meet international standards of impartiality, independence and transparency”, Mr. Türk said.
Responding to the High Commissioner’s comments, Iran’s representative, Khadijeh Karimi, Deputy of the Vice President for Women and Family Affairs, insisted that “necessary measures” had been taken to seek justice by the Government, after Ms. Amini’s death. These included the formation of an independent, parliamentary investigation commission as well as a forensic medical team.
“However, before the formal announcement of the probe analysis, the biased and hasty reaction of a number of Western authorities and their interventions in internal affairs of Iran, turned the peaceful assemblies into riots and violence,” she maintained.
Also speaking at the Special Session – the Council’s 35th since it was founded in 2005 - Javaid Rehman, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran insisted that in the past week, efforts to silence the protesters had intensified, including against children.
Child victims among dead
At least 60 to 70 people have been killed, he said, including five children, mostly from Kurdish areas. He also described as “alarming” the situation in the Kurdish cities of Piranshahr, Javanrood and Mahabad.
“The Iranian Government has consistently presented unsubstantiated reports and reiterated assertions claiming that Jina Mahsa did not die as a result of any violence or beatings,” he said. “In other reports, the Government refutes the killings of children by security forces, claiming that they committed suicide, fell from a height, were poisoned or killed by anonymous ‘enemy agents’.”
These are three of an estimated 400 who have been killed because they stood up for their right to determine their own life.
Since Ms. Amini’s death following her arrest by Iran’s so-called Morality Police on 13 September for not wearing her hijab properly, more than 300 people have been killed in protests, including at least 40 children, according to latest UN human rights office information.
At least 15,000 people have been arrested too “and the Iranian regime is now threatening protesters with the death penalty,” said Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock of Germany, which originally called for the Special Session: “And why? Only because these women, men and children want to enjoy the rights we all want to enjoy: to live in dignity and without discrimination.”
Echoing that message, United States Human Rights Ambassador in Geneva Michèle Taylor told the Council that the people of Iran were “demanding something so simple, something that most of us here take for granted: the opportunity to speak and to be heard. We applaud their courage, especially the women, girls and young people who are bravely demanding respect for their human rights and accountability for abuses.”