The UN Human Rights Council met Thursday to discuss the deteriorating situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran, especially with respect to women and children.

During the opening remarks, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk provided a review of what has been happening since mid-September, when Mahsa (Jina) Amini was killed in custody of the country’s ‘morality or hijab police’, igniting a nationwide uprising against the regime.

The 35th special session of the Human Rights Council was held following an official request submitted on November 11 by Germany and Iceland, as well as the support by over 40 other states.

Turk decried the killing of protesters and lack of accountability for the perpetrators of atrocities against the people as part of the crackdown on dissent. He also expressed concerns over "unnecessary and disproportionate" use of force against protesters and the high number of arrests as well as the death sentences handed to protesters. "The security forces... have used live ammunition, birdshot and other metal pellets, tear gas and batons," he said.

"The old methods and the fortress mentality of those who wield power simply don't work. In fact, they only aggravate the situation. We are now in a full-fledged human rights crisis," the High Commissioner of Human Rights said, adding, "The unnecessary and disproportionate use of force must come to an end. I urge the government and those in power to listen.”

Newly appointed United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk during a news conference at Palais Wilson in Geneva, November 2, 2022

He also criticized the Islamic Republic for seeking to delegitimize the protesters and label them as agents of enemies and foreign states, adding that "That's a convenient narrative. As we have seen throughout history, it's the typical narrative of tyranny."

Javaid Rehman, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran, was next to take the floor and speak about the grim situation. "Structural impunity has fueled widespread patterns of unlawful killings, enforced disappearance, torture and other human rights violations in Iran," he said, urging the council to "establish an independent investigative mechanism on Iran."

“Both president and head of judiciary have emphasized the need to act violently without any leniency to protesters," he emphasized.

Rehman urged Iranian authorities “to stop using the death penalty as a tool for political oppression and release peaceful protesters. We have received reports of torture including sexual abuse. Victims' families face harassment and intimidation," he said, adding that "The victims' families are forced to make false statements, under duress, stating that their children committed suicide. Iranian authorities spread false statements about deaths in custody and protester deaths. They fabricate false scenarios."

Tehran's representative called the debate disgraceful and appalling, before talking about the human rights situation in other countries such as women in Yemen, Palestine and even the indigenous people of Canada. She then continued with a list of statistics about the number of women in different professions in Iran such as judges and sport coaches, something that seems untrue to the Iranian people on social media.

Member states in the Council as well as observers that spoke later in the session condemned the regime for its repression and called for a moratorium on the death penalty. They decried the violence and the restrictions on Internet access for the people.

Tehran’s allies such as Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea and China, sided with the Islamic Republic and expressed their opposition to the session or any resolution against the Islamic Republic.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said, “We are now proposing an independent and impartial UN mechanism to be established to investigate these human rights violations so that those responsible can be held accountable. Because impunity prevents justice. Justice for sisters. Justice for sons. Justice for mothers.”

She then referred to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a party, mentioning Article 19, the right to hold opinion without interference; Article 21, the right of peaceful assembly, Article 2, respect to all peoples’ rights without distinction of any kind such as gender.”

Council members are set to adopt a resolution aimed at holding the Islamic Republic accountable, which has been lobbying against the motion and sent a delegation to Geneva earlier this month to urge countries to vote against the resolution.

In another global move over Iran’s denial of women's rights and crackdown on protests, calls on the UN to expel the Islamic Republic from the UN Commission on the Status of Women are also getting stronger with Canada, New Zealand, Netherlands and the United States behind the push. UN Watch, an independent non-governmental human rights group based in Geneva, has drafted a resolution for the 54-nation UN Economic Social Council (ECOSOC) to remove Iran.

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