- The United Nations Human Rights Council has voted to launch a high-level investigation amid a crackdown on protests in Iran.
- The inquiry will examine all violations related to Iran’s response to the ongoing protests.
- Protests in Iran were sparked by the death in custody of Mahsa Amini after she was arrested by Iran’s vice squad.
The United Nations Human Rights Council on Thursday condemned Iran’s crackdown on peaceful protesters following the death of Mahsa Amini and voted to launch a high-level investigation into the deadly crackdown.
With 25 votes to six against and 16 countries abstaining, the UN’s highest body agreed to launch an international fact-finding mission to investigate all violations related to Iran’s response to the ongoing protests.
There were concerns that Iran and its allies would succeed in blocking the resolution, and the council erupted in thunderous applause after the vote was announced.
US Ambassador Michele Taylor applauded the result.
“Iranian officials will not be able to carry out this act of violence anonymously,” she said in a statement. “The international community is watching.”
The vote took place at the end of a special session requested by Germany and Iceland with the support 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 allegedly violating the country’s strict dress code for women based on Islamic Sharia law.
– Soccer player arrested –
Iranian authorities have become increasingly harsh in their response to the demonstrations as they have spread across the country and have evolved 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 died since Amini’s death. Norway-based group Iran Human Rights has raised the toll to over 400, including more than 50 children.
“I call on the authorities to immediately stop violence and intimidation against peaceful demonstrators,” Turk said.
“The unnecessary and disproportionate use of force must end,” he added, warning that Iran was in “a full-blown human rights crisis.”
About 14,000 people, including children, had been arrested over the protests, he said, describing this as “a staggering number”, and denounced the fact that at least six death sentences had been handed down to protesters.
Those arrested include a number of celebrities who have expressed their support for the protesters, including Iranian footballer Voria Ghafouri, who was arrested on Thursday for “anti-state propaganda”.
– ‘Punishment stands in the way of justice’ –
A long line of Western diplomats took the floor in Geneva on Thursday to denounce the crackdown in Iran.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock called on all countries to support the independent international fact-finding mission to investigate all wrongdoing related to the ongoing protests, to ensure that “those responsible can be held accountable”.
“Impunity stands in the way of justice. Justice for sisters, sons, mothers. They have names. Jina, Abolfazl, Minoo,” she said, listing some of the many dead.
She told reporters the investigation would gather evidence to hold the perpetrators accountable – though it remains unclear under which jurisdiction they will be tried.
“If we don’t collect evidence today, if we don’t support this resolution, there will never be justice for 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 before the 1979 revolution. On the floor next to them were photos of victims of the Iranian regime.
– ‘Moral Credibility’ –
Iran, however, denounced the Western countries behind Thursday’s meeting.
Europe and the United States “do not have the moral credibility to preach … about human rights and to call for a special session on Iran,” said Khadijeh Karimi, Iran’s deputy vice president for women and family affairs, who wore a black chador to the council meeting.
“To reduce the common cause of human rights to a tool for political ends of specific groups of Western countries is abhorrent and disgraceful,” she added.
Iran received support from some countries.
Chinese ambassador Chen Xu warned against “turning human rights into a tool for interfering in the internal affairs of other countries”.
China also made a last-minute effort to change the text of Thursday’s resolution, asking it to delete the request for an investigation. Only six countries supported that effort.
Icelandic Foreign Minister Thordis Kolbrun Reykfjord Gylfadottir rejected arguments that Thursday’s meeting was “politically motivated”.
“This is about respecting, protecting and fulfilling human rights and fundamental freedoms,” she told reporters
“It’s the right thing to do.”