A scene of Women, Life, Freedom protests in Iran

Iran Committed Crimes Against Humanity In Quashing 2022 Protests: UN

Friday, 03/08/2024

A UN fact-finding mission says the Iranian regime's crackdown on 2022 protests – including killings, imprisonment, torture, and sexual violence – amounts to crimes against humanity.

The Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) was established by the UN human rights council in November 2022, two months after the Woman, Life, Freedom protests swept the country in response to the death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini. The mission published its first report on Friday after 18 months of investigations with help from experts, witnesses and victims, who will be corroborating the report's findings on a panel at the UN in Geneva later in the year.

The FFM concluded that Iran is responsible for the “physical violence” that led to the death of Amini in September 2022. The clerical regime has denied being responsible for her death or that she had been beaten, with authorities blaming a medical condition Amini had from childhood after a surgery. The UN report dismissed that as a cause of her death, confirming “the existence of evidence of trauma to Ms. Amini’s body, inflicted while in the custody of the morality police.”

Newspapers, with a cover picture of Mahsa Amini, are seen in Tehran, September 18, 2022.

“Credible figures suggest that as many as 551 protesters were killed by the security forces, among them at least 49 women and 68 children. Most deaths were caused by firearms, including assault rifles,” according to the report.

The violations and crimes include extra-judicial and unlawful killings and murder, unnecessary and disproportionate use of force, arbitrary deprivation of liberty, torture, rape, enforced disappearances, and gender persecution, the mission said. "The Mission found cases of women and girls subjected to rape and other forms of sexual and gender-based violence, including gang rape, rape with an object, electrocution of genitalia, forced nudity and groping,” the UN said.

It added that the regime carried out widespread and sustained human rights violations, which broke international laws and disproportionately targeted women and girls as well as children and members of ethnic and religious minorities. “The Mission found that gender persecution intersected with discrimination on the basis of ethnicity and religion.”

The report also confirmed that Iranian security forces used shotguns, assault rifles and submachine guns against demonstrators “in situations where there was no imminent threat of death or serious injury” to them, “thereby committing unlawful and extrajudicial killings.” It also found a pattern of protesters being shot intentionally in the eye, saying that “A pattern of extensive injuries to protesters’ eyes caused the blinding of scores of women, men and children, branding them for life.”

“These acts form part of a widespread and systematic attack directed against the civilian population in Iran, namely against women, girls, boys and men who have demanded freedom, equality, dignity and accountability,” said Sara Hossain, chair of the Fact-Finding Mission. “We urge the Government to immediately halt the repression of those who have engaged in peaceful protests, in particular women and girls.”

The mission also said the Government arbitrarily executed at least nine young men from December 2022 to January 2024 after summary trials based on torture-coerced confessions. “Dozens of individuals, remain at risk of execution or receiving a death sentence in relation to the protests.”

“We urge the Iranian authorities to halt all executions and immediately and unconditionally release all persons arbitrarily arrested and detained in the context of the protests, and to end the repression of protesters, their families and supporters of the Woman, Life, Freedom movement,” said Shaheen Sardar Ali, a member of the mission.

Authorities are doubling down on their repression of families of victims, journalists, human rights defenders, lawyers, medical doctors and many others simply for expressing their views, supporting the protesters or seeking truth and justice for victims, the mission underlined.

In addition to crackdown on journalists at home, the mission has further established that Iran harassed, threatened and intimidated journalists and other media employees working outside the country, including those at Iran International, the BBC Persian service and others.

“The Iranian authorities summoned, threatened and in some cases arrested, detained and charged the family members of those journalists and media workers in an apparent effort to exert pressure on them and prevent them from reporting on the country.”

In October 2022, Iran sanctioned the BBC Persian service and Iran International television, and imposed asset freezes on their staff. Journalists also received serious threats, including to their lives and personal safety, leading to the involvement of the police in some countries.

In February 2023, Iran International TV had to temporarily relocate its offices in London to Washington DC, after the UK’s security forces determined it could no longer keep the staff safe following assassination attempts by Iran’s IRGC. However, the network reopened its offices in September 2023 at a new location amid tighter security.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran has the obligation to uphold the rights of women and children, and to ensure the right to truth, justice, and reparations of all victims,” said Viviana Krsticevic, another member of the Mission. “Given our findings, this would entail, among other measures, an overhaul of criminal and civil laws, a reform of the justice system, and measures for accountability.”

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