UN Council to investigate Iran’s bloody crackdown on peaceful protests

BERLIN (AP) — The U.N. Human Rights Council voted Thursday to condemn Iran’s bloody crackdown on peaceful protests and set up an independent fact-finding mission to investigate alleged abuses, particularly those against women and children.

A resolution submitted by Germany and Iceland was supported by 25 states, including the United States and many countries in Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa. Six countries opposed the move — China, Pakistan, Cuba, Eritrea, Venezuela and Armenia — while 16 abstained.

The UN’s top human rights official had earlier appealed to Iran’s government to end its crackdown on protesters, but Tehran’s special envoy to the Human Rights Council on the country’s “deteriorating” rights situation was defiant and unflinching. , accusing the initiative of being “politically motivated”. .”

The protests were sparked by the death, more than two months ago, of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in the custody of the morality police for violating the strictly enforced Islamic dress code.

Thursday’s meeting in Geneva is the latest international effort to pressure Iran to crack down, which has already drawn international sanctions and other measures.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, who was present, said the situation was “a test of our courage”.

“The United Nations was founded to protect the sovereignty of each state, but a regime that uses that power to violate the rights of its people violates the values ​​of our United Nations,” he said.

“On many occasions, we have called on Iran to respect these rights to stop the violent crackdown on protesters, the bloodshed, the arbitrary killings, the mass arrests, the death sentences,” Baerbock said. “The only response we got was more violence, more death.”

Khadijeh Karimi, Iran’s deputy vice president for women and family affairs, criticized the Western effort as part of a “political move by Germany to distort the human rights situation in Iran.”

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

She trumpeted her government’s efforts to advance the role of women in the workplace and higher education, and accused Western countries of turning a blind eye to rights abuses in places like Yemen, the Palestinian territories or against indigenous peoples in Canada – which the Canadian government has recognized .

Karimi acknowledged Amini’s “unfortunate death” and said “necessary measures” were taken in the aftermath, including the creation of a parliamentary committee of inquiry. He accused Western countries of fomenting unrest and violence by interfering in Iran’s internal affairs.

UN human rights chief Volker Türk expressed his concerns that Iran’s government is not listening to the global community.

“The people of Iran, from all walks of life, from nationalities, from all ages, are demanding change. These protests are rooted in long-standing deprivations of freedoms, legal and structural inequalities, lack of access to information and internet outages,” he said.

“I call on the authorities to immediately stop the use of violence and harassment against peaceful protesters and to release all those arrested for peaceful protests, as well as to impose a moratorium on the death penalty,” he added.

The proposal by Germany and Iceland was aimed at tightening years of scrutiny by the 47-member council’s “special rapporteur” on Iran, whose efforts have been shunned by the Islamic Republic’s leaders. Western diplomats say Tehran has led a quiet push in Geneva and beyond to try to avoid any further scrutiny through the new council resolution being considered on Thursday.

The council will now set up a “fact-finding mission” to investigate rights violations “particularly with regard to women and children” linked to the protests that broke out on September 16. It also requires Tehran to cooperate with the special rapporteur, such as providing access to areas within Iranian territory, including detention facilities.

The group is expected to report back to the council in mid-2023.

Amini remains a powerful symbol in the protests that have posed one of the most serious challenges to the Islamic Republic since Green Movement protests in 2009 drew millions to the streets.

At least 426 people have been killed and more than 17,400 people have been arrested, according to Human Rights Activists in Iran, a group monitoring the unrest.

Activists said Iranian security forces opened fire on protesters in a western Kurdish city, killing at least five during an anti-government demonstration at the funeral of two people killed the previous day.

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