Iran crackdown in spotlight at UN rights council

GENEVA – The UN Human Rights Council is holding an urgent meeting on Thursday to discuss whether to launch a high-level international investigation into the deadly crackdown on mass protests rocking Iran.

The special session on Iran’s “deteriorating human rights situation” is due to kick off at 10:00 am (0900 GMT) in Geneva, with the new UN rights chief Volker Turk set to open the proceedings in his first appearance before the council.

The meeting, requested by Germany and Iceland with the backing of more than 50 countries, follows two months of protests in Iran sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, after she was arrested for an alleged breach of the country’s strict dress rules for women based on Islamic sharia law.

The authorities have grown increasingly heavy-handed in their response, as the demonstrations have spread across the country and swelled into a broad movement against the theocracy that has ruled Iran since 1979.

At least 416 people, including 51 children, have been killed across Iran in the crackdown since Ms Amini’s death, according to Norway-based group Iran Human Rights.

Thousands of peaceful protesters have also been arrested, according to the United Nations, including many women, children and journalists, and six people have so far been handed death sentences over the demonstrations.

During Thursday’s session, diplomats will debate a call for an international investigation of alleged violations linked to the ongoing protests.

The so-called independent international fact-finding mission should include “the gender dimensions of such violations” in its investigations, according to the draft resolution, presented by Germany and Iceland.

The text calls for the investigators to “collect, consolidate and analyse evidence of such violations, and to preserve evidence,” with a view to future prosecution.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, who like her Icelandic counterpart will be in Geneva for the session, stressed on Twitter “how important it is for the victims that those responsible are held accountable.”

Diplomats and rights activists voiced strong support for the initiative.

“We must do all we can to expose the truth of what is happening inside Iran and support the calls of the Iranian people for justice and accountability,” US ambassador Michele Taylor said.

Tara Sepehri Far, an Iran researcher with Human Rights Watch, urged the council to “shine a spotlight on the deepening repression and… hold those responsible accountable.”