The UN Human Rights Council voted on Thursday to condemn the bloody crackdown on peaceful protests in Iran and to set up an independent fact-finding mission to investigate alleged abuses, particularly those against women and children.
A resolution 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 move — China, Pakistan, Cuba, Eritrea, Venezuela and Armenia — while 16 abstained.
The United Nations’ top human rights official had previously called on the government of Iran to end the crackdown on protesters, but Tehran’s envoy at a special Human Rights Council on the “deteriorating” rights situation in the country was defiant 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 the vice squad for violating a strictly enforced Islamic dress code.
Thursday’s session in Geneva is the latest international attempt to put pressure on Iran for its actions, which has already issued international sanctions and other measures.
‘Test of our courage’
“It’s a big breakthrough,” Bob Rae, Canada’s ambassador to the UN, said from Toronto.
“You will have some very professional people collecting evidence, collecting data and starting to collect the material we need to address the magnitude of all the human rights violations that we know are happening in Iran,” he told TSTIME’s Power & Politics. “This is this is very important.”
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, who was present in Geneva, said the situation was “a test of our courage”.
“The United Nations was established to protect the sovereignty of every state, but a regime that uses this power to violate the rights of its own people violates the values of our United Nations,” she said.
“On many occasions, we have called on Iran to respect these rights to end the violent crackdown on demonstrators, bloodshed, arbitrary killings, mass arrests and death sentences,” Baerbock said. “The only answer we got was more violence, more death.”
Khadijeh Karimi, Iran’s Vice President for Women’s and Family Affairs, criticized the Western efforts as part of a “politically motivated move by Germany to disrupt Iran’s human rights record.”
“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,” Karimi said.
She praised her government’s efforts to promote the role of women in the workplace and higher education and accused Western countries of turning a blind eye to human rights violations in places like Yemen, 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 afterwards, including the establishment of a parliamentary committee of inquiry. She accused Western countries of fomenting riots and violence by interfering in Iran’s internal affairs.
The UN human rights chief, Volker Turk, expressed concern that the Iranian government has not listened to the global community.
“The people of Iran, of all walks of life, of all ethnicities, of all ages, are demanding change. These protests are rooted in longstanding denial of freedoms, in legal and structural inequalities, in lack of access to information and internet closures,” he said.
“I call on the authorities to immediately cease the use of force and intimidation against peaceful protesters and to release all those arrested for peaceful protest, and, crucially, to establish a moratorium on the death penalty” he added.
Report mid 2023
Germany’s and Iceland’s proposal aimed to step up oversight carried out for years by the Council of 47’s “special rapporteur” for Iran, whose efforts were shunned by the Islamic Republic’s leaders. Western diplomats say Tehran has led a quiet march into Geneva and beyond to try to avoid further scrutiny through the new council resolution under consideration on Thursday.
The council will now launch a “fact-finding mission” to investigate rights violations “particularly concerning women and children” in connection with the protests that erupted on September 16. It also demands that Tehran cooperate with the Special Rapporteur, such as by allowing access to areas of Iranian territory, including detention centers.
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 within the 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 right legal protections and ways we protect people, we can access a lot of very valuable public data, government information, telegrams, information being sent, emails being exchanged, text messages from government officials.
“You’d be amazed at what we can get.”
The team will report to the council in mid-2023.
Several Western diplomats expressed anger at China’s last-minute attempt to remove the planned investigation from the resolution. Beijing representatives had said the fact-finding mission would “obviously not help solve the problem” and “might further complicate the internal situation in Iran”.
But that attempt was ultimately thwarted, with only five other countries backing China’s proposed change.
Ambassador Michele Taylor, the US envoy to the council in Geneva, said it was important to pass the resolution to create a fact-finding mission “because of Iran’s demonstrated reluctance to make numerous credible allegations of human rights abuses.” by members of its security forces and other officials.”
Taylor said she was “personally shocked” by China’s attempt to sink the proposal.
“Some who have defended the Iranian authorities have tried to see this as a mere cultural issue,” she said. “Let’s be clear: no culture tolerates the killing of women and children.”
Amini remains a powerful symbol in protests that have posed one of the most serious challenges facing 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 arrested, according to Human Rights Activists in Iran, a group monitoring the unrest.
Activists said Iranian security forces used heavy gunfire against protesters in a Western Kurdish city on Monday, killing at least five during an anti-government protest at the funeral of two people killed the day before.