Iran defiant as Germany leads push against recent crackdowns

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Western diplomats and the UN human rights chief on Thursday called on the Iranian government to end a bloody crackdown on protesters during a special session of the Human Rights Council to discuss an attempt to examine more closely the “deterioration” of the country’s rights situation.

Iran’s envoy, in response, was defiant and inflexible, castigating a “politically motivated” initiative.

The council of 47 member states was due to consider a proposal, put forward by Germany and Iceland and backed by dozens of other countries, to set up a team of independent investigators to monitor human rights in Iran as protests and repression continue.

The protests were sparked by the death more than two months ago of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who died while in the custody of vice police for breaking a strictly enforced Islamic dress code.

The Geneva session is the latest international effort to pressure Iran over its crackdown, which has already resulted in international sanctions and other measures.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, who was there, said the situation presented “a test of our courage”.

“The United Nations was founded to protect the sovereignty of every state, but a regime that uses that power to violate the rights of its own people violates the values ​​of our United Nations,” she said.

“We have repeatedly called on Iran to respect these rights to end the violent repression of protesters, bloodshed, arbitrary killings, mass arrests, death sentences,” Baerbock said. “The only response we got was more violence, more death.”

Khadijeh Karimi, deputy vice president for women and family affairs in Iran, criticized the Western effort as part of a “politically motivated decision by Germany to distort the human rights situation in Iran”.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran deeply regrets that the Human Rights Council is once again abused by some arrogant states to antagonize a sovereign member state of the United Nations that is fully committed to fulfilling its obligation to promote and protect human rights,” Karimi said.

She trumpeted her government’s efforts to foster the role of women in the workplace and in higher education and accused Western countries of turning a blind eye to rights abuses in places like Yemen, Palestinian areas or against Indigenous peoples in Canada – which the Canadian government has acknowledged. .

Karimi acknowledged Amini’s “unfortunate death” and said “necessary steps” had been taken afterwards, including the establishment of a parliamentary commission of inquiry. She accused Western countries of stoking riots and violence by interfering in Iran’s internal affairs.

UN human rights chief Volker Türk expressed concern that the Iranian government has not listened to the international community.

“The Iranian people, of all walks of life, of all ethnicities and of all ages, demand change. These protests are rooted in long-standing denials of freedoms, legal and structural inequalities, lack of access to information and internet shutdowns,” he said.

“I call on the authorities to immediately stop using violence and harassment against peaceful protesters and to release all those arrested for peacefully protesting, as well as, above all, to impose a moratorium on the death penalty,” he said. he added.

Germany’s and Iceland’s proposal aims to bolster years of scrutiny by the council’s “special rapporteur” on Iran, whose efforts have been rejected by the Islamic Republic’s leadership. Western diplomats say Tehran has waged a quiet campaign in Geneva and beyond to try to avoid scrutiny through the new council resolution being considered on Thursday.

The proposal would set up a “fact-finding mission” to investigate rights violations “especially against women and children” linked to the protests that broke out on September 16. It also demands that Tehran cooperate with the special rapporteur, for example by granting him access to areas inside Iranian territory, including places of detention.

The team is expected to report to the board in mid-2023.

Amini remains a powerful symbol in the protests which have posed one of the most serious challenges to the Islamic Republic since the 2009 Green Movement protests drew millions to the streets.

At least 426 people have been killed and more than 17,400 people have been arrested, according to Human Rights Activists in Iran, a group monitoring the unrest.

Activists said Iranian security forces fired heavy gunfire into protesters in a western Kurdish town on Monday, killing at least five people during an anti-government protest at the funeral of two people killed the day before .

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