UN should fully investigate Iran’s crimes against humanity

UN should fully investigate Iran’s crimes against humanity

UN should fully investigate Iran’s crimes against humanity
Iranians protest the death of Mahsa Amini after she was detained by the morality police, Tehran, Iran, Oct. 1, 2022. (AP Photo)
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It has become clear that the Iranian regime will not stop, or even deescalate, its brutal crackdown on and oppression of its citizens until formidable and concrete action is taken by the UN.

Since protests erupted around the country in September, at least 488 people, including 60 children and 29 women, have been killed by the Iranian security forces, according to the Iranian Human Rights group. The majority of those killed by the regime are reportedly minorities from the Kurdistan and Sistan and Balochistan provinces.

In addition, thousands of protesters have been arrested and, for many of those, their fate is unknown. Some of the regime’s authorities are advocating in favor of death sentences for protesters. The actual number of deaths is likely even higher, with Iranian Human Rights pointing out that the 488 figure is a minimum and only includes cases it has verified.

The UN has the responsibility to act in such a crisis. In spite of the fact that the Iranian leaders do not seem to give much significance to the UN and its resolutions, any action taken by the organization to hold the regime accountable will be a blow to Tehran’s officials and their global image and prestige.

This is why, after the UN Human Rights Council last month held a session concerning Iran’s brutal crackdown, Kazem Gharibabadi, secretary of the High Council for Human Rights and deputy head of the Iranian judiciary, lashed out. He said: “While our rights are being violated through the imposition of unilateral coercive measures and the hosting of groups that have claimed 17,000 of our lives, holding a special session of the Human Rights Council on Iran is a treacherous act.”

In addition, the head of the Iranian parliament’s human rights commission, Zohreh Alahian, said: “The resolution of the special meeting of the Human Rights Council is interference in the internal affairs of the system.”

The UN Human Rights Council decided at its meeting to launch an official fact-finding mission into Iran’s crackdown on protesters and human rights violations. Although this move was long overdue, it is a step in the right direction. Of the 47-member council, 25 nations voted in favor of the resolution and only six opposed it.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk accurately said: “It pains me to see what is happening in the country. The images of children killed. Of women beaten in the streets. Of people sentenced to death. We have seen waves of protests over the past years, calling for justice, equality, dignity, and respect for human rights. They have been met with violence and repression. The unnecessary and disproportionate use of force must come to an end. The old methods and the fortress mentality of those who wield power simply don’t work. In fact, they only aggravate the situation. We are now in a full-fledged human rights crisis.”

In the next phase, the international community ought to reveal to the world the deteriorating human rights situation in Iran and how the regime is committing crimes against humanity.

The UN must also pressure the Iranian regime to cooperate with the Human Rights Council investigation. This includes allowing investigators to enter Iran, interview people and witness the situation on the ground. In addition, Iranian regime officials should not be allowed to be a member of any UN committee that deals with respecting and protecting human rights.

It is very likely that the Iranian leaders will decline to cooperate with the fact-finding mission. The regime’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani has already told reporters that his government will have “no form of cooperation with this political committee, which has been framed as a fact-finding committee.” This means the Iranian leaders do not want the world to see the gravity of their crackdown and egregious human rights violations.

Any action taken to hold the regime accountable will be a blow to Tehran’s officials and their global image and prestige.

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh

If the Islamic Republic refuses to work with the UN Human Rights Council, its case ought to be immediately referred to the UN Security Council. This would be a significant warning to the regime due to the fact that the UNSC can trigger the rule of “responsibility to protect.” This embodies “a political commitment to end the worst forms of violence and persecution. It seeks to narrow the gap between member states’ preexisting obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law and the reality faced by populations at risk of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.” The responsibility to protect has so far been invoked in more than 80 UNSC resolutions.

The UN must fulfill its role as an international protector of human rights and investigate the situation in Iran in order to reveal the gravity of the crimes against humanity committed by the Iranian regime and to hold the Iranian leaders accountable.

  • Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh
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