The UN Human Rights Council voted on Thursday to condemn the bloody crackdown on peaceful protests in Iran and create an independent fact-finding mission to investigate alleged abuses, especially those committed against women and children. .
A resolution presented by Germany and Iceland was supported by 25 countries, including the United States and many European, Latin American, Asian and African countries. Six countries opposed the decision – China, Pakistan, Cuba, Eritrea, Venezuela and Armenia – while 16 abstained.
The top UN human rights official previously called on the Iranian government to end a crackdown on protesters, but Tehran’s envoy to a special Human Rights Council on the ‘deterioration’ of the country’s rights situation was provocative and inflexible, calling the initiative “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 vice police for breaking a strictly enforced Islamic dress code.
Thursday’s session in Geneva is the latest international effort to pressure Iran over its crackdown, which has already resulted in international sanctions and other measures.
“The Test of Our Courage”
“It’s a big breakthrough,” said Bob Rae, Canada’s ambassador to the UN, from Toronto.
“You are going to have very professional people collecting evidence, collecting data and starting to put together the material that we need to deal with the extent of all the human rights violations that we know have taken place. place in Iran,” he told CBC power and politics. “It’s very important.”
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, who was on hand in Geneva, said the situation presented “a test of our courage”.
“The United Nations was founded to protect the sovereignty of every state, but a regime that uses that power to violate the rights of its own people violates the values of our United Nations,” she said.
“We have repeatedly called on Iran to respect these rights to end violent repression against protesters, bloodshed, arbitrary killings, mass arrests, death sentences,” Baerbock said. “The only response we got was more violence, more death.”
Khadijeh Karimi, Iran’s vice president for women and family affairs, criticized the Western effort as part of a “politically motivated decision 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 abused by some arrogant states to antagonize a sovereign member state of the United Nations that is fully committed to fulfilling its obligation to promote and protect human rights,” Karimi said.
She trumpeted her government’s efforts to foster the role of women in the workplace and in higher education and accused Western countries of turning a blind eye to rights abuses in places like Yemen, Palestinian areas or against Indigenous peoples in Canada – which the Canadian government has acknowledged. .
Karimi acknowledged Amini’s “unfortunate death” and said “necessary steps” had been taken afterwards, including the establishment of a parliamentary commission of inquiry. She accused Western countries of stoking riots and violence by interfering in Iran’s internal affairs.
UN human rights chief Volker Turk has expressed concern that the Iranian government has not listened to the international community.
“The people of Iran, from all walks of life, of all ethnicities, of all ages, are demanding change. These protests are rooted in longstanding denials of freedoms, legal and structural inequalities, lack of access to information and internet shutdowns,” he said. said.
“I call on the authorities to immediately stop using violence and harassment against peaceful protesters and to release all those arrested for peacefully protesting, as well as, above all, to impose a moratorium on the death penalty,” he said. he added.
Report expected mid-2023
Germany and Iceland’s proposal aimed to strengthen the years-long control exercised by the Council of 47 member states’ ‘special rapporteur’ on Iran, whose efforts have been rejected by the leaders of the Islamic Republic . Western diplomats say Tehran has waged a quiet campaign in Geneva and beyond to try to avoid 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 against women and children” linked to the protests that broke out on September 16. It also demands that Tehran cooperate with the special rapporteur, such as allowing access to areas inside Iranian territory, including places of detention.
Rae says that even without the cooperation of the regime, evidence can be collected by people on the ground with their phones, and even by individuals in government.
“There are a lot of conscientious people working in these regimes who have access to a lot of information,” he said. “And with the appropriate legal protection and the means we have to protect people, we are able to access a lot of very valuable public data, government information, telegrams, information sent, e-mails exchanged, SMS messages from government officials.
“You’d be amazed at what we can get.”
The team is expected to report to the board in mid-2023.
Several Western diplomats have expressed anger over China’s last-minute attempt to remove the planned investigation from the resolution. Beijing officials said the fact-finding mission would “obviously not help solve the problem” and “could further complicate the internal situation in Iran.”
But that effort was ultimately defeated, with only five other nations backing China’s proposed amendment.
The US envoy to the Geneva-based council, Ambassador Michele Taylor, said it was important to pass the resolution creating a fact-finding mission “because of Iran’s apparent reluctance to investigate numerous credible allegations of human rights abuses by members of its security forces and other officials.”
Taylor said she was “personally appalled” by China’s attempt to derail the proposal.
“Some who have defended the Iranian authorities have sought to present this simply as a cultural issue,” she said. “Let’s be clear: no culture condones the killing of women and children.
Amini remains a powerful symbol in the protests which have posed one of the most serious challenges to the Islamic Republic since the 2009 Green Movement protests 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 fired heavy gunfire into protesters in a western Kurdish town on Monday, killing at least five people during an anti-government protest at the funeral of two people killed the day before .