The UN rights commissioner called on Iran on Thursday to immediately end violence against protesters as countries debated whether to launch an investigation into Tehran’s deadly crackdown.
Volker Türk opened an emergency session of the UN Human Rights Council, where countries were called to discuss Iran’s “deteriorating human rights situation” and determine whether a high-level international investigation is needed.
The meeting, which was called for by Germany and Iceland with the support of more than 50 countries, comes after two months of protests in Iran that resulted in the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini after she was arrested for allegedly violating the country’s dress code. Rules for women based on Islamic Sharia law.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Turk said: “I call on the authorities to immediately stop violence and persecution against peaceful demonstrators.”
“The unnecessary and disproportionate use of force must be stopped,” he said, warning that Iran is in a “complete human rights crisis.”
Addressing the 47-member council, he urged the body to vote in favor of the investigation: “Accountability is a key component of the pursuit of justice for human rights violations.”
As the protests spread across the country and became a broad movement against the theocracy that has ruled Iran since 1979, the Iranian authorities have responded with an increasingly harsh tone.
Turk said that more than 300 people were killed after Amin’s death. The Norway-based Iran Human Rights group has reached over 400, including more than 50 children.
“The security forces… used live bullets, bird bullets and other metal pellets, tear gas and batons,” Turk said.
“Turn on the spotlight”
He also said that about 14,000 people, including children, were arrested in the context of the protests, and he assessed this as a “shocking number”.
So far, at least 6 people have been sentenced to death in connection with the protests.
On Thursday, diplomats were asked to decide on the creation of an independent international fact-finding mission into all abuses related to the ongoing protests.
According to the draft resolution submitted by Germany and Iceland, the investigation should include the “gender dimensions of such violations”.
The text calls for investigators to “collect, consolidate and analyze evidence related to such violations and preserve evidence” for future prosecution.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, who participated in the session as her Icelandic counterpart, stressed that “Iranian demonstrators have no place in the Human Rights Council in Geneva.”
Before starting, he urged the council to “raise its voice for the inalienable rights of the Iranian people.”
Diplomats and human rights defenders have expressed strong support for this initiative.
US Ambassador Michelle Taylor said: “We must do everything we can to expose the truth of what is happening inside Iran and support the Iranian people’s calls for justice and accountability.”
“The Story of Tyranny”
Turk said that Iran’s statements are aimed at “legitimizing and branding protesters, civil society activists and journalists as agents of enemies and foreign states.”
“As we have seen throughout history, this is a typical story of tyranny,” he said, urging Iran’s leadership to respect basic freedoms and engage with citizens about their vision for the country.
“Change is inevitable. The way forward is through meaningful reforms,” he stressed.
In response to this, Khadija Karimi, the deputy of Iran’s vice president for women and family issues, harshly criticized the Western countries that demanded the meeting.
Europe and the United States “lack the moral credibility to preach to others about human rights and demand a special session on Iran,” he said.
Germany and Iceland gave broad support to the request for Thursday’s session, including more than a third of the council’s 47 members.
Western diplomats expressed cautious optimism that the resolution would pass, but acknowledged it could be tough.
Baerbok urged the council to vote in favor of the resolution.
“We owe it to the victims,” he said. “Every vote counts.”