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Protests in Iran: UN Council votes to investigate human rights violations

The UN Human Rights Council launched an international inquiry on Thursday into the ongoing violence by the Islamic regime in Tehran against a 10-week protest movement sparked by the arrest of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini.

The vote came after a rare special session of a UN body devoted solely to the ongoing violence in Iran. Germany and Iceland requested a fact-finding mission on abuses against women and children, which was approved by 25 votes to 6 with 16 abstentions.

“It pains me to see what is happening in the country – images of children being killed, women being beaten in the streets,” said Volker Turk, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

“The old methods and fortress mentality of those in power just don’t work. In fact, they only make the situation worse. We are now in a full human rights crisis.”

At least 440 protesters have been killed in protests in more than 150 cities across Iran, according to Hran, an Oslo-based human rights group. Another 18,000 people were arrested.

The Iranian protest movement, sparked by the death of Amini in the custody of the morality police and led by women and youth, gained international attention earlier this week after players of the Iran national football team refused to sing the national anthem during a match against England at the World Championship in Qatar.

On Thursday, regime forces reportedly arrested soccer star Voria Ghafouri, an ethnic Kurd, for speaking out on behalf of the protesters. He was accused of insulting the national football team and of propaganda against the regime born News.

Strikes and protests were also reported across the country on Thursday, especially in ethnic Kurdish neighborhoods in the west and northwest of Iran.

It remains unclear what impact, if any, the fact-finding mission will have on events in Iran, where the regime is using weapons of war as well as mass arrests against a largely peaceful nationwide uprising against the Tehran authorities.

But an investigation with the UN imprimatur could increase pressure on regime leaders and security forces who could face charges of internationally recognized crimes against humanity, and perhaps precipitate any possible defection or refusal to take part in the violence,” Quinn McKew, executive director of the advocacy group Article 19, he said in a statement.

“Those who commit human rights violations and crimes under international law, from commanders to those who open fire on protesters in the streets and commit torture, need to know that evidence of their actions will be collected and secured for future criminal prosecutions “

In Geneva, Tehran sent Khadijeh Karimi, Iran’s deputy vice president for women and family affairs, to present Iran’s case. She called the special session “politically motivated”.

Deputy Vice President for Women and Family Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran Khadijeh Karimi


“The Islamic Republic of Iran deeply regrets that the Human Rights Council is being used again by some arrogant states to antagonize a sovereign UN member state that is fully committed to its commitment to promote and protect human rights,” she said.

Another representative of the regime in Tehran accused the West of repressing its own people.

“German, American, French and British women also deserve freedom from violence,” she said, calling the investigation “based on lies as a tool to achieve narrow goals by self-proclaimed human rights vigilantes.”

Iran’s supporters, including Russia, China, Syria, North Korea, Venezuela, Belarus and other authoritarian states, argued that it was unfair for the Council to single out Iran for rights violations, stressing that the body’s purpose is to work with members of the state towards improvement, rather than punishing alleged offences.

“All human rights must be treated fairly and equally,” said China’s envoy to the Human Rights Council. “National and regional specificities need to be taken into account. The work of the Human Rights Council must genuinely promote the protection of human rights.’

But Western nations rejected this argument. They named the women protesters killed in the violence, including 16-year-olds Sarina Esmailzadeh and Nika Shakarani. The US delegation was lightly punished for having photos and names of people killed in the violence.

“No culture condones the killing of women and children,” said Michele Taylor, the US envoy to the Council.

Others, including former Iranian business partners such as Germany, South Korea and Japan, have accused Iran of violating fundamental rights to freedom of assembly and expression as set out in international pacts to which Tehran is a signatory.

“We have repeatedly called on Iran to respect these rights, to stop violent attacks on demonstrators, bloodshed, arbitrary killings, mass arrests and the death penalty,” said Anna Baerbock, Germany’s foreign minister. “The only response we got was more violence, more deaths.”

Portraits of victims of the Iranian regime in Geneva

(AFP via Getty Images)

Diplomats passionately spoke out against the regime’s repression, highlighting reports of violence against women and children. Threats by Iranian officials to impose the death penalty on protesters received particular attention. Both Ukraine and Lithuania also raised the issue of Iran’s alleged arms sales to Russia, which are currently being used against Ukrainian civilians in the ongoing war in Moscow.

“This significant move towards accountability gives new hope to the victims of the authorities’ bloody crackdown on protests,” McKew said.

“By establishing the accountability mechanism, the Council has sent a clear and unequivocal message to the Iranian authorities that they cannot continue their brutal attack on human life with impunity.”


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