UN rights council votes to investigate Iran’s brutal response to protests

The UN Human Rights Council on Thursday voted to create a new fact-finding mission to investigate alleged human rights abuses in Iran amid weeks of protests and Tehran’s brutal crackdown on unrest.

The UN council had convened a special session to discuss the “deteriorating human rights situation” in Iran, where citizens have led widespread protests against the government since 22-year-old Masha Amini was allegedly beaten to death by “morality police” after being detained for violating Iran’s strict dress code.

Twenty five countries voted to create the new mission, and 16 abstained. Only six countries voted against the move: China, Cuba, Pakistan, Venezuela, Armenia and Eritrea.

The new UN mission will investigate alleged human rights abuses in Iran surrounding the Iranian government’s harsh response to the protests, which began in September.

US Ambassador to the Human Rights Council Michele Taylor broke UN rules to show photos of dead Iranian protesters during his address to the special sessioncalling for investigations into the deaths.

“The names on display next to me and the photos behind me represent just some of the lives – lives full of potential – that have been taken simply for standing up for basic human rights. They are the reason we are here today,” Taylor said.

A man sitting next to Taylor held up a black sign with white lettering displaying the names of the protesters, while two people behind the ambassador held up printed collages of the protesters’ photos.

“This historic movement was sparked by the unforgivable, unjustifiable death in custody of Mahsa Amini and was met with brutal killings by the security forces of hundreds of Iranians. Countless others have been sexually assaulted,” Taylor said.

“The Iranian people are asking for something so simple, something most of us here take for granted: the opportunity to speak up and be heard,” the ambassador added.

Taylor also criticized Iran for arresting two journalists who she said were “integral” to the news of Amini’s death.

“It is inconceivable that those women now face charges carrying the death penalty in Iran simply for exercising their freedom of expression,” the ambassador said.

The president of the Human Rights Council, the Argentine Federico Villegas, reiterated the rules on the exposure of the photos before passing the microphone to the session in Geneva.

“Let me remind you of the rules of this advice to avoid presenting pictures, or any other manifestation, as we speak. Thank you,” Villegas said.

The Biden administration has responded to the crackdown in Iran with sanctions and sentences against those responsible.

“The Iranian government must end its systematic persecution of women and allow for peaceful protests. The United States will continue to express our support for human rights in Iran and hold those who violate them to account,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement shortly after Amini’s death.

President Biden said last month that the Iranian government “has denied basic freedoms to its people and suppressed the aspirations of succeeding generations through intimidation, coercion and violence.”

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