Thursday’s vote by the UN Human Rights Council condemned the brutal crackdown on peaceful demonstrations in Iran. It also created an independent fact-finding mission that will investigate allegations of abuses against children and women.
Germany and Iceland presented a resolution that was supported by 25 countries, which included the United States and many European and Latin American nations. Six countries opposed the move: China, Pakistan Cuba, Eritrea Venezuela, Armenia, Eritrea and Venezuela. 16 others abstained.
The United Nations’ top human right official had previously appealed to Iran to stop the crackdown on protesters. However, Tehran’s special Human Rights Council representative on Iran’s “deteriorating rights situation” was unbowed and defiant, blasting the initiative for being “politically motivated”.
Protests were triggered more than two years ago by Mahsa Amini’s death while being held in custody by the morality police. He was accused of violating an Islamic dress code.
The Geneva session on Thursday is the latest international effort by international organizations to exert pressure on Iran for its crackdown. This crackdown has already drawn international sanctions.
“Test of our courage”
Bob Rae, Canada’s Ambassador to the UN from Toronto, said, “It’s an enormous breakthrough.”
He said that he would have some highly trained people gathering evidence and data to begin to collect the information that is needed to address the extent of human rights violations in Iran. This is extremely important.
Probe has big potential, Rae says:
‘It’s a big breakthrough’
Bob Rae, Canada’s Ambassador at the UN, says that Thursday’s decision by Canada to send a fact-finding team to Iran could uncover significant evidence of alleged abuses both from protestors and sources within the regime.
Annalena Baerbock (German Foreign Minister) was present in Geneva and said that the situation presented a “test of our courage.”
She stated that the United Nations was founded to protect sovereign states. However, a regime using this power to violate rights of its own citizens is violating the United Nations’ values.
Baerbock stated that Iran has been repeatedly called upon to respect the rights of protesters to stop violence, bloodshed, arbitrary killings, and death penalties. “The only response we got was more violence and more death.”
Khadijeh Karaimi, Iran’s deputy vice president for Women and Family Affairs, criticised the West effort as part of a “politically motivated” move by Germany to destabilize the Iranian situation.
Karimi stated that “The Islamic Republic of Iran deeply regretted that the Human Rights Council was once again misused by some arrogant countries to antagonize sovereign UN member states that are fully committed to their obligation to protect and promote the human rights.”
She praised her government’s efforts in promoting women’s roles in work and education, and accused Western countries for turning a blind to rights abuses in Yemen, Palestine, and against Indigenous peoples in Canada. This accusation was confirmed by the Canadian government.
Karimi acknowledged Amini’s “unfortunate death” and stated that “necessary steps” were taken to address the situation, including the creation of a parliamentary investigation commission. She accused the West of inciting violence and riots by interfering with Iran’s internal affairs.
Volker Turk, UN Human Rights Chief, expressed concern that Iran’s government is not listening to the international community.
“The Iranian people, from all walks and ethnicities, demand change. He said that these protests were rooted in long-standing denials of freedoms and in legal and structural inequalities.
He said, “I call upon the authorities immediately to cease using violence and harassment towards peaceful protesters, and to release all people arrested for peacefully protesting. Also, and most importantly, to impose an moratorium on death penalty.”
Report due mid-2023
Germany and Iceland proposed the proposal to intensify the scrutiny of the 47-member-state-council’s “special raporteur” on Iran. These efforts have been ignored by the Islamic Republic’s leaders. According to Western diplomats, Tehran has been quietly pushing for greater scrutiny in Geneva and elsewhere to avoid further scrutiny by the new resolution of the council being considered on Thursday.
Now, the council will create a “fact-finding team” to investigate rights violations in relation to protests that broke out on Sept. 16. It demands Tehran also cooperate with the special raporteur. This includes granting Tehran access to Iranian territory and detention facilities.
Rae claims that even without the cooperation of the regime evidence can still be collected by those on the ground using their phones and even individuals within the government.
He said that there are many people of conscience working in these regimes, and have access to a lot information. We have the legal protection we need to provide protection to people so we can access a lot of valuable public data. Telegrams, information from the government, email exchanges, and text messages from officials.
“You’d be surprised at the results we can achieve.”
The council would expect the team to report back in mid-2023.
Many diplomats from Western countries expressed their anger at China’s attempt to cancel the planned probe. Beijing had stated that the fact-finding mission would “obviously not solve the problem” but “may further complicate Iran’s domestic situation.”
However, the effort was defeated with only five countries backing China’s amendment.
Ambassador Michele Taylor, the U.S. ambassador to Geneva, stated that it was crucial to pass the resolution creating an fact-finding mission due to Iran’s apparent unwillingness to investigate multiple credible allegations of human rights violations by members of its security forces or other officials.
Taylor stated that she was “personally shocked” by China’s attempts to sink her proposal.
She said that some who have defended Iran’s authorities tried to make this an issue of cultural taste. “Let’s be clear, no culture allows the killing of children and women.”
Amini is still a powerful symbol in protests that have presented one of the greatest challenges to the Islamic Republic ever since the 2009 Green Movement protests which drew millions to its streets.
According to Human Rights Activists Iran, a monitoring group, at least 426 people were killed and more than 17400 people were arrested.
According to activists, Iranian security forces used heavy gunfire on Monday against protestors in a western Kurdish village, killing at most five people during an antigovernment demonstration at the funeral of two victims.