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Iran’s Human Rights Abuses Under Scrutiny at United Nations Session


The 52nd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, which commenced on February 27, focused on scrutinizing human rights situations in various countries, including Iran. The March 20 session was dedicated to the situation in Iran, where  Mr. Javaid Rehman, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, presented a comprehensive report on the Iranian regime’s egregious human rights violations, particularly since the nationwide uprising erupted in September. 

The brutal murder of Mahsa Amini by the regime’s so-called “morality police” sparked nationwide protests. In his report, Mr. Rehman underlined that Mahsa’s death “was not an isolated event but the latest in a long series of extreme violence against women and girls committed by the Iranian authorities.”  

“The legitimate claims of Iranian peoples of all ages, genders, ethnic, linguistic, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds, for an end to the serious human rights violations, including gender-based violence and discrimination, and their aspiration to a democratic and secular system of governance were met with brutal state violence,” Mr. Rehman said.  

The U.N. expert also voiced his deep concern “at the continuing and exponentially increasing violations of human rights” in Iran since Ebrahim Raisi became the regime’s president. Raisi is an unscrupulous mass murderer who participated in the 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners, mostly members and supporters of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).  

Referring to his reports in March 2022 and in 2023, Mr. Rehman concluded that “there is an absence of accountability for serious human rights violations and for crimes under international law within the political, constitutional, and legal system of Iran.”  

“In the absence of accountability at the domestic level, I have strongly advocated the establishment of an independent international fact-finding mission, and I look towards fully cooperating with it to ensure justice and accountability for victims of human rights violations,” he added.  

Representatives of several NGOs also condemned the gross human rights abuses in Iran. Ms. Shabnam Madadzadeh, a former political prisoner who spoke on behalf of the Women’s Human Rights International Association, shared a harrowing account of the tortures she endured in prison. She also informed the council that “Thousands of unidentified prisoners are under torture in Iranian prisons. Many are being held without having committed any criminal offense. One example is my former cellmate Mrs. Maryam Akbari Monfared, who has been in prison for the past 14 years simply because she asked about the whereabouts of her siblings who were executed in the summer of 1988.”  

She also underlined that the regime’s authorities “have derailed,” as “evidenced by the horrifying and concerning situation in Iranian prisons.”  

Different countries applauded Mr. Rehman’s report and condemned the Iranian regime’s ongoing human rights violations.  

Italy condemned the brutal repression in Iran and called for the authorities to ensure freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and release of all those arbitrarily detained. 

The delegation of Ukraine expressed alarm at recent testimonies of violence against children being arrested, tortured, and even killed for participating in anti-state protests. They emphasized the correlation between the regime’s domestic internal oppression and threatening international behavior, as in the case of Iran providing weapons to Russia in its war of aggression against Ukraine. 

The US strongly supported the Special Rapporteur’s work documenting the Iranian government’s human rights abuses and appreciated his support for the Fact-Finding Mission’s vital work of uncovering the violence perpetrated against protestors. 

France reiterated its firm condemnation of the violent repression carried out by the Iranian regime, which targets women and girls committed to freedom, human rights defenders, journalists, researchers, artists, and minorities. France paid tribute to the victims of repression and the courageous fight of Iranian men and women for their rights. 

Belgium expressed grave concern over the widespread pattern of unlawful and deliberate use of lethal force aimed at unarmed and peaceful protesters, including children. They supported the Special Rapporteur’s call for accountability with respect to the grave human rights violations and possible crimes under international law committed by Iran. 

Switzerland restated its call for independent investigations into the deaths that occurred during the protests and emphasized that the perpetrators of human rights violations must be prosecuted. 

Luxembourg also strongly condemned Iranian authorities’ strategy to suppress peaceful protests at any cost. They condemned the use of mass arrests and detentions, acts of torture and ill-treatment, sexual and gender-based violence, arbitrary executions, and the death penalty against protesters. 

The EU strongly opposed the use of the death penalty at all times and in all circumstances. They condemned the executions of protesters subsequent to unfair trials and expressed deep concern for those that have been sentenced to death and are facing execution. 

The Netherlands remained gravely concerned about the human rights situation in Iran. They condemned the widespread and disproportionate use of force against peaceful demonstrators and the ill-treatment of detainees, including minors. 

Austria expressed deep concern about the ongoing continued and systemic discrimination and violence against women and girls. 

The UK held Iran culpable of egregious continued human rights violations, including the use of the death penalty, restrictions on media and the internet, and on freedoms of speech, expression, religion, and belief. They called for Iran to be held accountable for its egregious human rights violations. 

Albania voiced deep concern over the use of the death penalty in Iran against individuals arrested while exercising their legitimate rights to freedom of expression and opinion, peaceful assembly, and association. They also noted that Iran has a notorious long-standing record of systematic violations, including a sharp increase in executions, where ethnic and national minorities are particularly affected. 

As Mr. Rehman mentioned, the Iranian regime’s ongoing human rights violations and the crisis of impunity in Iran require joint-international action. The world community should end decades of human rights abuses in Iran by referring the regime’s dossier to the UN Security Council and bringing its criminal leaders to justice.