UN rights council moves to investigate Iran’s protest crackdown

‘Fact-finding mission’ will probe alleged human rights abuses in Iran, with particular focus on women and children.

Protestors in Iran
UN Human Rights Council resolution draws praise from several countries but is slammed by Iran as 'politically motivated' [File: AFP]

The United Nations Human Rights Council has voted to establish a fact-finding mission to investigate potential abuses in Iran’s crackdown on anti-government demonstrations, with a particular focus on women and children.

Thunderous applause broke out as the 47-member council passed the resolution on Thursday, with 25 countries voting in favour and 16 abstaining. Six nations – Armenia, China, Cuba, Eritrea, Pakistan and Venezuela – voted against the measure.

“The people of Iran, from all walks of life across ethnicities, across ages, are demanding change,” said UN human rights chief Volker Turk, urging Iran to end its “disproportionate” use of force against the protesters.

“I call on the authorities immediately to stop using violence and harassment against peaceful protesters and to release all those arrested for peacefully protesting, as well as … a moratorium on the death penalty,” he said.

The resolution is the latest move by the international community to pressure Iran over alleged abuses linked to the protests, which broke out in September after 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died after being arrested by the “morality police” for violating the country’s strict dress code.

Demonstrations have since spread across the country, prompting a harsh response from the Iranian authorities.

Turk said more than 300 people had been killed since Amini’s death, while 14,000 had been arrested, including children. He added that Tehran had not responded to his request to visit the country.

In a statement announcing new sanctions against Iranian security officials earlier this week, the United States said the crackdown has been “particularly severe” in areas of the country with large Kurdish populations.

Iran has given no death toll for the protesters.

Thursday’s vote drew praise from several countries, including the US, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying it showed that the top UN rights body “recognises the gravity of the situation in Iran”.

“The fact-finding mission established today will help ensure that those engaged in the ongoing violent suppression of Iranian people are identified and their actions documented,” Blinken said in a statement.

Rights groups also celebrated the resolution, with Amnesty International describing it as “historic”, while Human Rights Watch said it was “a welcome step towards accountability”.

But it was condemned by Iran’s representative at the meeting in Geneva, Khadijeh Karimi, who called it “politically motivated”.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran deeply regrets that the Human Rights Council is abused once again by some arrogant states to antagonise a sovereign UN member state that is fully committed to its obligation to promote and protect human rights,” said Karimi, Iran’s deputy of the vice president for women and family affairs.

She also accused Western nations of ignoring human rights abuses in Yemen and the occupied Palestinian territories.

“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.

The resolution, put forward by Germany and Iceland, demands that Tehran cooperate with the UN Human Rights Council’s special rapporteur on Iran, including by granting access to areas inside Iranian territory, such as places of detention.

The team would be expected to report back to the council in mid-2023.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock called on all countries to back the independent probe to ensure “those responsible can be held to account”.

“If we don’t collect the evidence today … justice will never come to the victims,” Baerbock said.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies