Demonstrations have spread across Iran and swelled into a broad movement
Geneva (AFP) - The United Nations Human Rights Council on Thursday condemned Iran’s repression of peaceful demonstrators following the death of Mahsa Amini, and voted to create a high-level investigation into the deadly crackdown.
With 25 votes in favour, six opposed and 16 countries abstaining, the UN’s highest rights body agreed to create an international fact-finding mission to probe all violations connected with Iran’s response to the ongoing protests.
There had been concerns that Iran and its allies would manage to block the resolution, and the council erupted in thunderous applause after the vote was announced.
US ambassador Michele Taylor hailed the result.
“Iranian officials will not be able to perpetrate this violent crackdown anonymously,” she said in a statement. “The international community is watching.”
The vote came at the end of a special session requested by Germany and Iceland with the backing of 50 countries to discuss the situation in Iran, rocked by two months of protests.
Those demonstrations were sparked by the death in custody of 22-year-old Amini, after she was arrested for an alleged breach of the country’s strict dress rules for women based on Islamic sharia law.
- Footballer arrested -
Iranian authorities have grown increasingly heavy-handed in their response to the demonstrations as they have spread across the country and swelled into a broad movement against the theocracy that has ruled Iran since 1979.
UN rights chief Volker Turk said he had offered to visit Iran but had received no response from Tehran.
He told the council that more than 300 people had been killed since Amini’s death. Norway-based group Iran Human Rights has put the toll above 400, including more than 50 children.
“I call on the authorities immediately to stop using violence and harassment against peaceful protesters,” said Turk.
“The unnecessary and disproportionate use of force must come to an end,” he added, warning that Iran was in “a full-fledged human rights crisis”.
Around 14,000 people, including children, had been arrested over the protests, he said, describing this as “a staggering number”, and decried the fact that at least six death sentences had been handed down to demonstrators.
Among those arrested have been a number of celebrities who have expressed support for the protesters, including Iranian national team footballer Voria Ghafouri, arrested on Thursday for “anti-state propaganda”.
- ‘Impunity prevents justice’ -
A long line of Western diplomats took the floor in Geneva Thursday to denounce the crackdown in Iran.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock called on all countries to back the independent international fact-finding mission to probe all abuses connected with the ongoing protests, to ensure “those responsible can be held to account”.
“Impunity prevents justice. Justice for sisters, sons, mothers. They have names. Jina, Abolfazl, Minoo,” she said, listing some of the many killed.
She told reporters that the investigation would collect evidence towards holding perpetrators to account – although it remains unclear under which jurisdiction they would be tried.
“If we don’t collect the evidence today, if we don’t support this resolution, justice will never come to the victims,” Baerbock said.
As diplomats debated the issue in the council, dozens of people protested outside the UN, waving the flags used in Iran prior to the 1979 revolution. Propped up on the ground beside them were pictures of victims of the Iranian regime.
- ‘Moral credibility’ -
Iran however denounced the Western countries behind Thursday’s meeting.
Europe and the United States “lack the moral credibility to preach… on human rights and to request a special session on Iran”, said Khadijeh Karimi, Iran’s deputy of the vice president for women and family affairs, who wore a black chador to the Council meeting.
“Reducing the common cause of human rights to a tool for political purposes of specific groups of Western countries is appalling and disgraceful,” she added.
Iran received backing from some countries.
China’s ambassador Chen Xu warned against “turning human rights into a tool to intervene into other countries internal affairs”.
China also put in a last-minute bid to change the text of Thursday’s resolution, asking that the request to establish an investigation be removed. Only six countries supported that effort.
Icelandic Foreign Minister Thordis Kolbrun Reykfjord Gylfadottir rejected the argument that Thursday’s meeting was “politically motivated”.
“This is about respecting, protecting and fulfilling human rights and fundamental freedoms,” she told reporters
“It is the right thing to do.”