On November 24, the U.N. Human Rights Council voted to create a fact-finding investigation into Iran’s bloody crackdown on protestors. The mission “will help ensure that those engaged in the ongoing violent suppression of Iranian people are identified and their actions documented,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement. The evidence collected could be used in future prosecutions of Iranian officials in international courts. At least 300 people were killed and some 14,000 detained between mid-September and the end of November.
Germany and Iceland, with the backing of dozens of countries, had made the request for a special meeting of the U.N. council. “We are now in a full-fledged human rights crisis,” U.N. High Commissioner of Human Rights Volker Turk said in his address to the 47-member body before the vote. “The unnecessary and disproportionate use of force must come to an end.”
The resolution to establish the mission passed with 25 votes in favor. Only six countries – Armenia, China, Cuba, Eritrea, Pakistan, and Venezuela – voted against the resolution. Sixteen others abstained. The resolution urged Iran to “cooperate fully” with the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, “in particular by granting free, full and unhindered access to the territory of the country, including unhindered access to all places of detention.” Iran has not allowed a special rapporteur to visit since 1992. The fact-finding team would be expected to present its findings in mid-2023.
“Iranian officials will not be able to perpetrate this violent crackdown anonymously,” the U.S. ambassador to the council, Michele Taylor, said after the vote. “The international community is watching.”
Iran’s representative at the meeting, Khadijeh Karimi, condemned the move as “politically motivated.” The Islamic Republic “deeply regrets that the Human Rights Council is abused once again by some arrogant states to antagonize a sovereign U.N. member state that is fully committed to its obligation to promote and protect human rights,” said Karimi, Iran’s deputy of the vice president for women and family affairs.
Iran’s foreign ministry said that it would not recognize or cooperate with the mission. It claimed that security forces showed “maximum restraint” in dealing with “rioters” and blamed foreign media for spreading misinformation. On November 28, the foreign ministry summoned Germany’s ambassador in Tehran, Hans Udo Muzel, to protest Germany’s role in passing the resolution.
Human rights groups welcomed the resolution. “We hope the establishment of this fact-finding mission marks a fundamental shift in the international community’s approach to tackling the crisis of systematic impunity that has long fueled crimes under international law and other serious human rights violations in Iran,” said Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s secretary general. Amnesty International’s Lucy McKernan, deputy director for United Nations, said that member states must “make sure the mission is well resourced to do technical research and sufficient outreach to hundreds of victims’ families across Iran.” The following are reactions from the United States and Iran to the vote as well as the full text of the resolution.
The United States
Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a statement on Nov. 24, 2022: “Today’s Special Session at the UN Human Rights Council addressed the deteriorating human rights situation in Iran, with a particular and appropriate focus on the regime’s brutal acts of repression and violence against women and children, especially girls. Following the death of Mahsa Amini in the custody of Iran’s so-called “morality police,” thousands of brave Iranians have risked their lives and their liberty to protest the regime’s long record of oppression and violence. The regime has responded with a ruthless crackdown on peaceful protestors, including the lethal response on November 19 in Mahabad, mass arrests including the preemptive detention of journalists, and use of the death sentence against peaceful protestors. The United States continues to support the people of Iran in the face of this brutal repression. We reiterate our call for the regime to immediately end its harsh crackdown and cease its violence against women and girls.
“The UN Human Rights Council has a crucial role to play in drawing international attention to human rights crises such as the one in Iran, investigating them, and establishing accountability mechanisms to document and respond to the abuses committed. Today’s session leaves no doubt that the HRC’s membership recognizes the gravity of the situation in Iran, and the fact-finding mission established today will help ensure that those engaged in the ongoing violent suppression of Iranian people are identified and their actions documented.
“It is also important that the international community work in partnership to ensure that Iran plays no role on UN or other international bodies charged with protecting and promoting human rights of women. As Vice President Harris recently announced, the United States is working with other nations to remove Iran from the UN Commission on the Status of Women.
“We look forward to the day when all Iranians can enjoy the human rights and fundamental freedoms enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. That day is long overdue.
Ambassador Michele Taylor in a statement on Nov. 24, 2022: “We are all watching with horror as events unfold in Iran. And yet what we see is so very limited due to the communications blackout imposed by the authorities. The people of Iran are demanding something so simple, something that most of us here take for granted: the opportunity to speak and to be heard.
“We applaud their courage, especially the women, girls, and young people who are bravely demanding respect for their human rights and accountability for abuses. They stand for the very principles on which the United Nations was founded. This historic movement was sparked by the inexcusable, unjustifiable death in custody of Mahsa Amini, and has been met with brutal killings by security forces of hundreds of Iranians.
“Countless others have been subjected to sexual violence. The reported torture and other mistreatment of political prisoners, including peaceful protestors, must end.
“We hear daily reports of increasing violence by the authorities. Again this past weekend in Mahabad, security forces reportedly used lethal force against protestors.
“We are deeply disturbed by the detention and killing of children, including 9-year-old Kian Pirfalak, and we condemn the sham trials and death sentences for those peacefully protesting.
“We must not forget Mahsa and Kian, and the countless other individual lives at risk or lost. The names on display next to me and the photos behind me represent just a few of the lives, lives full of potential, that were taken simply for standing up for basic human rights. They are the reason we are here; their deaths demand independent, impartial, and transparent investigations. Investigations that Iran has shown it is unwilling to undertake.
“Iran has also detained numerous activists and media workers, including two women reporters integral to breaking the story of Mahsa’s death. It is unconscionable that those women now face charges that carry the death penalty in Iran simply for exercising their freedom of expression.
“The United States condemns the violent crackdown in the strongest terms. We support all Iranians who continue to demonstrate in the face of this suppression and join their urgent call for accountability. They are an inspiration to me personally and to the world.
“As members of this Council, we must hold Iranian officials and government institutions to account. We must take this stand for women, life, freedom.”
Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement on Nov. 25, 2022: “The Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs strongly condemns an anti-Iran move by a small group of Western countries to impose a resolution on the Human Rights Council against Iran.
“It is highly regrettable that the Human Rights Council has been exploited once again to serve the short-term interests of a small number of countries.
“The Foreign Ministry once again expresses regret over the bitter death of Ms. Mahsa Amini and reaffirms that all top officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran adopted a responsible approach to the pitiful incident stemming from a humanitarian view and true commitment to human rights that is rooted in religious teachings, the Islamic Republic’s forward-looking Constitution and the Iranian civilizational culture. The government, in turn, had relevant bodies form a variety of supplementary investigation teams and made the outcome of the probe and different phases of the incident available to the public opinion transparently.
“Simultaneously, the Iranian Judiciary’s High Council for Human Rights has, from the start, submitted various documented reports to international human rights mechanisms in Geneva and New York and to all members of the world community regularly and in different stages.
“This approach of the Islamic Republic of Iran is indicative of a sense of responsibility and concern among the country’s top officials, relevant bodies, and related institutions. In addition, this approach is based on a national sense of responsibility, domestic rules, humanitarian principles, and respect for and adherence to the commitments undertaken by membership in international mechanisms.
“The guardians of the country’s security dealt with rioters with maximum restraint while tens of law enforcement forces and guardians of security were martyred and thousands of them injured, despite the fact that some protesters resorted to violent behavior and incited riots based on exploitation, organized provocations and interventions from abroad over the past two months, and in spite of acts of terror committed by some armed individuals and groups in different forms.
“Undoubtedly, the move by the regime in Germany and other sponsors of the special session of the Human Rights Council has been a historic mistake originating from multi-dimensional political goals.
“It should be noted that the Human Rights Council’s job is based on cooperation, dialog and provision of assistance to governments in promoting human rights. Over the past 16 years and since the establishment of the council, the Islamic Republic has always laid emphasis on constructive participation despite many cases of selective, unjust and even biased behavior on the part of a group of countries at the council. The Islamic Republic of Iran deeply believes that members of the international community can contribute to the promotion of human rights only through dialog, cooperation and exchanges of experience.
“It is regrettable that opportunistic approaches and the instrumental misuse of the human rights issue by a certain group of countries have polarized the Human Rights Council and fueled the tensions. Without any doubt, such an approach not only fails to contribute to the promotion of human rights but also sacrifices them for the political and hostile goals pursued by some countries against other members of the global community.
“The German government and some other Western governments, having a hand in the resolution, have made a strategic mistake based on miscalculation and under the pressure of certain political lobbies as well as news fabrication by some known anti-Iran media outlets. The passage of time will prove this political short-sightedness will be to the detriment of their interests.
“Unfortunately, in parallel with the recent riots against the Islamic Republic of Iran, lying foreign media outlets, which are promoters of violence and terror, engaged in spreading lies, misinformation and creating a hype in an unprecedented and organized way, something that turned into an important part of hybrid warfare against Iran.
“The resolution that was approved against Iran in Geneva was the direct result of the use of misinformation by a small number of Western countries to advance anti-Iran objectives at international circles.
“While relevant Iranian officials treated the protesters with maximum appeasement and dealt with the arrested rioters with Islamic and humanitarian mercy, and especially showed maximum tolerance toward women, the regime in Germany and its aligned governments leveled false and provocative allegations over violations of human rights and the rights women and children in Iran with political goals and motives.
In that regard, they attributed the organized and pre-plotted acts of terrorist and violence-seeking groups in false-flag killings to the guardians of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s security and order, allegations that were repeatedly rejected by relevant Iranian institutions with well-founded documents.
“About the resolution adopted at the special meeting and the formation of a mechanism by the Human Rights Council regarding the recent developments in Iran, the Islamic Republic of Iran was against the special meeting and considered it inconsistent, unusual and unnecessary based on the grounds and reasons for holding 34 special meetings on various countries and issues during the past years, and thus Iran considers the resolution passed at this meeting to be completely rejected.
“Given the existence of a special investigation committee on the death of Ms. Mahsa Amini and the existence of a national investigation team comprised of law experts and attended by independent representatives in the main body and in relation to the latest developments in the country, the Islamic Republic of Iran considers the formation of any new mechanism to investigate the issues of the past two months in Iran as unnecessary and a violation of the country’s national sovereignty, and does not recognize the assigned mission.”
Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in a tweet on Nov. 24, 2022: “The regime in Berlin, as the main provider of CWs to Saddam,& other opportunists have conducted massive HR violations through unjust & inhumane sanctions.
“Now, they are abusing HR mechanisms to perpetrate more HR violations, all in the name of a farce "solidarity" w Iranians.”
Readout of statement by Khadijeh Karimi, Deputy of the Vice President for Women and Family Affairs of Iran on Nov. 24, 2022: The rights of Iranian people had been violated by the so-called champions of human rights due to the imposition of unilateral sanctions by the United States’ regime, and the implementation of these sanctions by the European countries, specifically Germany, the United Kingdom and France, and the provision of support to and hosting of terrorist groups. After the unfortunate demise of Ms. Mahsa Amini, necessary measures were undertaken, including the prompt formation of an independent parliamentary investigation commission as well as the forensic medical team. However, before the formal announcement of the probe analysis, the biased and hasty reaction of Western authorities and their interventions in the internal affairs of Iran turned the peaceful assemblies into riots and violence, setting the ground for terrorist attacks in several cities.