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UN Human Rights Council to investigate Iran’s crackdown on protests; China tried to undermine the resolution at the last minute but failed

German Foreign Minister Baerbock stood with Icelandic Foreign Minister Gilfadottir during a special session of the UN Human Rights Council on the situation in Iran at UN Human Rights Council headquarters in Geneva, answering questions from reporters. (24 November 2022)
German Foreign Minister Baerbock stood with Icelandic Foreign Minister Gilfadottir during a special session of the UN Human Rights Council on the situation in Iran at UN Human Rights Council headquarters in Geneva, answering questions from reporters. (24 November 2022)

The UN Human Rights Council on Thursday (24 November) condemned Iran’s suppression of demonstrators peacefully protesting after the death of Martha Amini and voted to set up a high-level mission to investigate the deadly crackdown by the Iranian authorities.

Despite intensive lobbying in Tehran and China’s last-minute attempts to undermine the resolution, the 47-member Human Rights Council supported an investigation into the Iranian authorities’ crackdown on protests by a larger-than-expected majority.

After the Human Rights Council adopted the resolution with 25 votes in favor, 16 abstentions, and 6 against, the room erupted into thunderous applause. The six countries that voted against were Armenia, China, Cuba, Eritrea, Pakistan, and Venezuela.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken praised the vote. He said it showed that the UN’s top human rights body “recognizes the gravity of the situation in Iran.”

“The fact-finding mission established today will help ensure that those engaged in sustained repressive actions against the Iranian people will be identified and their actions documented,” Blinken said in a statement. ”

At the request of Germany and Iceland and with the support of 50 countries, the UN Human Rights Council held an emergency meeting to discuss the situation in Iran, and the vote was held at the end of the meeting. The protests in Iran have been going on for two months.

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The protests were stirred by the death of a 22-year-old woman, Amini, while in police custody. Amini was arrested for allegedly violating strict rules of Iranian Islamic law regarding women’s dress.

Iran denounced that Thursday’s meeting was convened at the behest of Western countries.

Kadij Karim, Iran’s deputy president for women and family affairs, said Europe and the United States “lack … Moral credibility for lecturing on human rights.

She added: “It is appalling and outrageous to reduce the common cause of human rights to a tool that serves the political ends of certain groups of Western countries.” ”

Iranian authorities have become increasingly tough in response to the demonstrations. The demonstrations have now spread across the country and have grown into a broad movement against the theocratic regime that has ruled Iran since 1979.

During Thursday’s meeting, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk insisted that “unnecessary and disproportionate use of force must end.” ”

Mr. Turk told reporters he offered to visit Iran but had yet to receive a response from Tehran. He said more than 300 people had been killed since Amini’s death.

Iran’s human rights group, based in Norway, said the death toll was more than 400, including more than 50 minors.

Turk said about 14,000 people, including minors, were arrested for protesting. He described it as “shocking numbers.” He also condemned the death sentences of at least six demonstrators.

On Thursday, a string of Western diplomats spoke at the venue during the meeting in Geneva, denouncing the Iranian regime’s crackdown.

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German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock called on all countries to support the establishment of an independent international fact-finding mission to investigate all violations related to the ongoing protests to ensure that “those responsible can be held accountable.”

“Impunity hinders justice, which is justice for sisters, sons, and mothers. They are living people with names. Gina, Abor Fazir, Minu,” she pronounced the names of some of the victims.

She told reporters that the investigation would gather evidence to hold the perpetrators accountable, though it was uncertain in what jurisdiction they would be tried.

Baerbock said: “If we don’t collect evidence today … The victims will never receive justice. ”

The same sentiment was echoed by Iceland’s Foreign Minister, Soldis Kolbrun Rekfiyoz Gilfadotire. She told reporters that the Human Rights Council’s vote “is about respecting, protecting and fulfilling human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

Human rights groups also praised the vote. Amnesty International described the vote as historic, and Human Rights Watch called it a “welcome step towards accountability.”

Iran has the support of a number of countries. Countries such as Pakistan and Venezuela denounced the increasing politicization of the Human Rights Council. Chinese Ambassador Chen Xu warned against turning human rights into a tool to interfere in other countries internal affairs.

China also made a last-minute effort to try to revise the text of Thursday’s resolution to remove the call for a fact-finding mission. Only six countries support China’s approach.

(This article is based on an AFP report from Geneva.)

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