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UN rights chief concerned over ‘serious violations of human rights’ in Iran
photo credit: UN
UN rights chief concerned over ‘serious violations of human rights’ in Iran

Following a violent crackdown on protesters in Iran, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet issued a statement Friday calling Iran’s reaction “clear violations of international norms and standards on the use of force, and serious violations of human rights.”

The protests were largely in response to a massive tax hike on gas prices that was announced on November 15. Since the announcement and outbreak of protests, at least 7,000 people have reportedly been arrested throughout 28 of the 31 provinces in Iran.

Bachelet said that she is “extremely concerned about their physical treatment, violations of their right to due process, and the possibility that a significant number of them may be charged with offenses that carry the death penalty, in addition to the conditions under which they are held.” She also stated concerns with freedom of expression in the country due to the harsh response to the protesting.

Since the protests began, UN reports have found that at least 208 people have been killed with further unverified reports suggesting the deaths of more than twice that. Among those killed include at least 12 children. Bachelet has emphasized the need for prompt, transparent and impartial investigations by authorities in light of this exceptionally high number. She stated that these investigations were essential because there “appear to be multiple violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Iran has ratified and is obliged to uphold.”

Although the protesters posed no immediate threat, security in Iran have used weapons as fatal as machine guns in retaliation, injuring or killing both protesters and bystanders in some cases.

Verified video footage indicates severe violence was used against protesters, including armed members of security forces shooting from the roof of a justice department building in one city, and from helicopters in another. We have also received footage which appears to show security forces shooting unarmed demonstrators from behind while they were running away, and shooting others directly in the face and vital organs – in other words shooting to kill. These are clear violations of international norms and standards on the use of force, and serious violations of human rights.

Along with her concerns over Iran’s reaction during the protests, Bachelet expressed that Iran has held those arrested in unsanitary and unsafe conditions. While being detained in a variety of detention centers, many individuals do not receive medical care and have to face severe overcrowding.

Journalists working to release the story have reportedly been threatened by intelligence officials as well. Bachelet closed her statement by pressing Iran to release the protesters being detained and “arbitrarily deprived of their liberty” as well as expressing far more restraint in situations to come in accordance with international standards.