In a groundbreaking report released today, Javaid Rehman, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, declared that “the scale and gravity” of human rights violations he and his office have been documenting since the start of the protests in September 2022 “point to the possible commission of crimes against humanity, including murder, imprisonment, enforced disappearances, torture, rape, and sexual violence, and persecution.”
Iranian security forces killed hundreds of protestors, including children
Sections of the report detailing Iran’s response to the September 2022 protests paint a picture of rampant and unabated brutality against Iran’s civilian population that resulted in the death of over 476 people in Iran, including at least 64 children and 34 women; hundreds of protesters were severely injured, and thousands were imprisoned or placed under detention.
Iranian authorities weaponized the judiciary to execute protesters
In the report, the Special Rapporteur states his “outrage” that Iranian authorities executed protesters following “sham trials.” At least 100 other individuals have been charged with offenses related to the protests that can carry the death penalty.
The report also details a sharp increase in executions in 2022 and calls attention to the Government’s “disproportionate use of the death penalty against persons belonging to ethnic and religious minorities during 2022.”
Iranian authorities arrested and detained thousands, reportedly committed torture, gender-based and sexual violence, and rape, including against children
The Rapporteur’s report illustrates a “State policy of mass arbitrary arrests and detention,”; estimating that a staggering 18,000 individuals have been detained since the start of the protests, among them numerous human rights defenders and civil society activists, as well as students, lawyers, journalists, and at least 1,700 Azerbaijan-Turks. Of these detainees, the UN expert noted that 2,942 have had their identities confirmed.
The Rapporteur’s report paints a disturbing picture of the Government’s targeting and mistreatment of peaceful protesters. It highlights several emblematic cases where individuals have been apprehended and subjected to torture, including sexual assault, for their involvement in non-violent acts such as posting videos calling for peaceful protests, singing in support of the demonstrators, and removing their headscarves in solidarity against gender-based violence and discrimination.
Iranian security forces targeted religious and ethnic minorities
The UN expert documents the repeated targeting of ethnic and religious minorities in the current wave of repression. “More than half of the total number of persons killed since the start of the protests are from Baluchi and Kurdish-populated provinces.” Notably, the report highlights, Baluchi and Kurdish-populated provinces have been hit harder by Iranian security forces: 130 Baluchis and 125 Kurds have been killed as of December 31, 2022, with 13 children and 8 women among them. The Special Rapporteur also highlights that Iranian security force violence against Iran’s minorities happens against a background of “decades of systemic and systematic discrimination and persecution” against these communities.
The cycle of impunity drives human rights violations and must be broken
The report highlights that the death of Mahsa Jina Amini and State authorities’ failure to conduct independent, impartial and transparent investigation is emblematic of a cycle of “extreme violence against women and girls committed by the Iranian authorities” and state impunity for gender-based discrimination and violence. The Special Rapporteur, calls on the Government to “accept full responsibility for the death in custody of Jina Mahsa Amini.”
The State repression of protests that started in September 2022 is a continuation of decades of State-sanctioned violence in law and in practice against any form of dissent or perceived threat to the authoritarian rule. The Special Rapporteur recalls “long-standing emblematic events that have been met with persistent impunity, including the enforced disappearances and summary and arbitrary executions of 1988 and the protests of November 2019.”
Given the total absence of legitimate avenues for domestic accountability, Javaid Rehman’s report stresses the importance of the international community’s support of accountability efforts.
The Special Rapporteur’s conclusions come ahead of his interactive dialogue with the UN Human Rights Council, as well as the Council’s deliberations over the next steps for addressing long-standing human rights concerns in the country, including extending the UN Special Rapporteur’s mandate to continue his work for another year. The UN expert’s findings also come as the UN Fact-finding Mission begins to take shape to advance an in-depth investigation into the accusations he documents.