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UN says Iran may have committed crimes against humanity

March 20, 2023

Cases of murder, torture and sexual violence in Iran's crackdown on widespread protests may amount to crimes against humanity, a UN special rapporteur has said.

Iranian police on motorbikes firing on protesters to disperse them
Iranian police and other security forces have used deadly violence to curb the protestsImage: UGC/AP/picture alliance

A UN-appointed expert said on Monday that violations committed by Iranian authorities may amount to crimes against humanity.

Javaid Rehman, a special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, told the Geneva-based Human Rights Council that as part of its crackdown on the recent wave of protests, Iran had committed numerous violations.

He cited the "crimes against humanity of murder, imprisonment, enforced disappearances, torture, rape and sexual violence, and persecution."

Rehman also said that the death of Jina Mahsa Amini — which sparked the biggest wave of protests across Iran in recent years — was the "result of beatings by the state morality police."

Outrage over Amini's death

Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman, was arrested in September last year for allegedly failing to abide by Iran's strict dress code.

Her death several days later led to an outburst of anger in the Kurdish region of the country and spread across Iran.

Iran's state coroner said that the death was a result of a pre-existing medical condition, but this claim has been rejected by Amini's family.

Jina Mahsa Amini
Jina Mahsa Amini's death sparked some of the biggest protests seen in Iran since the revolution in 1979Image: Social Networks/ZUMAPRESS/picture alliance

The UN's special rapporteur has now given his backing to the family, saying that she was killed by blows to the head.

According to Rehman, Amini's death was not an isolated incident, but indicative of Iran's ongoing violent treatment of women and girls.

Tehran's violent crackdown against protesters

Attempts by the Iranian security forces to quell the monthslong protests have see hundreds of protesters killed and tens of thousands more detained.

Rehman told the Human Rights Council that the extent of the violence "points to the possible commission of international crimes, notably the crimes against humanity."

He highlighted the execution of four people in connection with the protests and the total of 143 people executed since January, following what he called "grossly unfair trials."

Rehman also expressed concern over the mass poisonings of school girls across the country and the persecution of ethnic and religious minorities, in particular the Kurdish, Balochi and Bahai communities.

Iran's ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Ali Bahreini, disregarded the accusations, calling them imaginary and accusing the UN of targeting Iran.

ab/rt (Reuters, EFE)