The bloody crackdown on peaceful demonstrators in Iran must end, the UN justice chief stressed on Thursday, as countries discussed launching an investigation into Tehran’s deadly crackdown.
Volker Turk opened an emergency session of the UN Human Rights Council, where countries were convened to discuss Iran’s “deteriorating human rights situation” and determine whether a high-level international investigation is warranted.
The rally, requested by Germany and Iceland with the support of more than 50 countries, follows two months of protests in Iran over the death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini after she was arrested for an alleged violation of the law. rules of the country. strict dress code for women based on Islamic sharia.
“I call on the authorities to immediately stop using force and intimidation against peaceful protesters,” Turk said in his first address to the council since becoming the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights last month.
“The unnecessary and disproportionate use of force must end,” he said, warning that Iran was in a “full-fledged human rights crisis.”
He urged the 47-member council to vote for an investigation.
Turk said he had offered to visit Iran since he took office last month but had not received a response until now.
– ‘Incredible number’ –
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.
Turk said more than 300 people have died since Amini’s death. Norway-based group Iran Human Rights has raised the toll to over 400, including more than 50 children.
“The security forces … have used live ammunition, birdshot and other metal bullets, tear gas and batons,” Turk said.
He also said about 14,000 people, including children, had been arrested over the protests, describing this as “a staggering number”, and condemned at least six death sentences against protesters.
Others speaking on Thursday put the number of arrests even higher, with German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock saying more than 18,000 had been arrested.
She urged the council to vote for a so-called independent international fact-finding mission to investigate all wrongdoing related to the ongoing protests, to ensure “those responsible can be held accountable”.
– ‘Justice’ –
“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 that the requested investigation would gather evidence to hold the perpetrators accountable – though it remained unclear in which jurisdiction they would 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.
US Ambassador Michele Taylor agreed.
“We are all watching the events in Iran with horror,” she told the council, as members of her staff held up photos and lists of names of those killed in the crackdown.
“The people of Iran demand something so simple, something most here take for granted: the ability to speak and be heard.”
– Political ‘tool’ –
Iran, meanwhile, denounced the Western countries behind Thursday’s meeting.
Wearing a black chador, Khadijeh Karimi, Iran’s deputy to the vice president for women and family affairs, stressed to the council that Europe and the United States “lack the moral credibility to preach … about human rights and to promote a special session on Iran.”
“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 said.
Iran received support from some countries, with China’s ambassador Chen Xu warning against “turning human rights into a tool for intervening in other countries’ internal affairs,” while Russia’s ambassador Gennady Gatilov dismissed the call for an investigation as ” fundamentally illegal”.
Icelandic Foreign Minister Thordis Kolbrun Reykfjord Gylfadottir disputed that Thursday’s meeting was “politically motivated”.
“It’s also not about the so-called West imposing their values on the people of Iran,” she told reporters.
“This is about respecting, protecting and fulfilling human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
“It’s the right thing to do.”