July 05, 2023
The Independent International Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) on the Islamic Republic of Iran has called on the Iranian government to cease its crackdown on peaceful protesters and put an end to the wave of executions, mass arrests, and detentions that have occurred since the custodial death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini last September. The mission emphasized the need for Iran to respect and protect the rights of all individuals, particularly women and girls, within the country.
In its first Oral Update to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), the FFM raised alarm that if concerns over alleged human rights violations are not addressed, and if proposed legislation which would impose harsher punishments on women and girls for not veiling becomes law, the overall human rights situation in the country could further deteriorate.
Iran saw nationwide protests last September after Amini died in custody following her arrest and detention by morality police for alleged non-observance of the country’s forced veiling law.
“Ten months later, Jina Mahsa’s family still awaits truth and justice, and we are concerned that domestic investigations have not met international human rights norms and standards, including requirements for promptness, independence, and transparency,” stated Sara Hossain, the Chair of the FFM.
The mission highlighted several areas of concern, particularly the risks faced by those involved in the protests, including lawyers, journalists, and human rights defenders, as well as women and girls.
The FFM informed the HRC the Iranian government claims to have pardoned 22,000 individuals in connection with the protests. However, these individuals were allegedly coerced into expressing remorse and admitting guilt, thus violating their human rights, including their right to freedom of association.
To this day, no official data has been made publicly available regarding the arrests, detentions, charges, or convictions of individuals connected to the protests. Reports of ongoing arrests and detentions, particularly of women and girls opposing the forced veiling law, as well as harassment of their family members, continue to emerge.
“We are concerned about the continued detention of human rights defenders, lawyers supporting the protesters, and at least 17 journalists, including Nilufar Hamedi and Elahe Mohammadi, who were the first to report on Jina Mahsa’s death in custody,” said Viviana Krsticevic, a member of the FFM.
According to information received by the FFM, at least 26 individuals have been sentenced to death in connection with the protests since November 2022. Additionally, many more face charges that carry the death penalty. Concerns have been raised about hasty proceedings leading to the execution of seven men amid allegations of rights violations and coerced confessions obtained through torture.
Harsh punishments continue to be imposed on those involved in the protests, even for exercising rights protected by international human rights law. Legal proceedings lack transparency and fail to meet the basic requirements of fair trial and due process guaranteed under international standards.
“We are particularly troubled by the reports of harassment against family members seeking justice for their loved ones, including children killed during the protests,” added Hossain.
Two months after the protests began, numerous alleged poisonings in schools across 28 provinces were reported. The FFM is investigating whether these incidents were orchestrated as a means to punish or deter girls involved in the protests.
Two draft bills, currently awaiting consideration by the Iranian Parliament, propose harsher punishments for women and girls who violate forced veiling provisions. These bills would increase the risk of violence, harassment, and arbitrary detention for these individuals.
The FFM also told the HRC that it has sent seven letters to the Iranian government, including requests for a visit to conduct a formal, impartial investigation, however these letters have gone unanswered.
“Iran has an obligation to protect the rights of all individuals in the country and hold those responsible for alleged rights violations accountable. It is crucial to address the root causes of these violations,”
emphasized Shaheen Sardar Ali, another member of the FFM.
“The people of Iran, especially women and girls, have fundamental rights to equality, truth, justice, accountability, and reparations. We urge the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to fully cooperate with our mandate and ensure that all affected individuals have safe and unhindered access to provide evidence,” stated Hossain.
The FFM plans to present a comprehensive report on its findings to the Human Rights Council during an interactive dialogue in March 2024 at its 55th session.