UN expert: Iran is unlawfully detaining human rights activists, including new Nobel peace laureate

UN expert: Iran is unlawfully detaining human rights activists, including new Nobel peace laureate
Protests broke out in Tehran in September 2022 over the death of Mahsa Amini, a young woman who was arrested by Iran's "morality police" over the way she wore a hijab. A UN probe released  on October 6, 2023, reveals the extent of  human rights violations committed by Iranian authorities in a massive crackdown against last year's protests. (AFP/File photo)
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Updated 07 October 2023
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UN expert: Iran is unlawfully detaining human rights activists, including new Nobel peace laureate

UN expert: Iran is unlawfully detaining human rights activists, including new Nobel peace laureate
  • As of July 2023 at least 537 people, including 68 children and 48 women, had died in Iran for protesting, says UN probe report
  • Nationwide protests erupted in Iran following the 2022 death of Mahsa Amini, a young Kurdish who was arrested for wearing a hijab “improperly” 

UNITED NATIONS: Iran is cracking down on protesters, unlawfully detaining human rights activists, including new Nobel Peace Prize laureate Narges Mohammadi, and carrying out an “alarming” number of executions, the UN independent investigator on human rights in the Islamic Republic said in a report circulated Friday.
The wide-ranging report by Javaid Rehman, covering the period from October 2022 through July, was written before the announcement early Friday that the Nobel Peace Prize had been awarded to Mohammadi, a longtime campaigner for women’s rights even from her current cell in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison.
Rehman, a Pakistani-born professor of international human rights law at Brunel University in London, singled out Mohammadi among lawyers and human rights defenders imprisoned for their work in the report to the General Assembly.
He was highly critical of the “excessive and lethal use of force” unleashed by Iranian authorities in reaction to nationwide protests following the 2022 death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old member of the Kurdish minority who was arrested for wearing an “improper hijab” or head scarf.
By the end of July, Rehman said, at least 537 people, including 68 children and 48 women, had died for protesting and hundreds more had been injured “while thousands have been reportedly arrested, detained or incarcerated.”
Rehman expressed disappointment that Iran has not carried out an independent and transparent investigation into Amini’s death or the unlawful use of force against protesters.
He recommended that Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and the country’s government, judiciary and parliament “accept full responsibility” for Amini’s death and take immediate remedial actions.
The investigator, appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council, also recommended that Khamenei and Iranian authorities undertake prompt, independent investigations into the killings of protesters and “immediately end all forms of violence, including sexual violence and harassment of girls and women protesters.”
In the aftermath of the protests, Rehman said, Iranian security forces arrested at least 576 civil rights activists ,including teachers and advocates from labor unions and minority groups.
“The arrests and attacks appear to be aimed at punishing and silencing human rights defenders and civil rights activists, in particular in relation to women’s rights and those calling for accountability for the death of Ms. Amini,” he said, adding that human rights lawyers also continue to be imprisoned for their work.
“Human rights defender Narges Mohammadi remains in prison serving a 16-year prison sentence,” Rehman said, singling her out by name.
He added that “innumerable reports” he received “establish that the rights to freedom of opinion and expression and to participate are under serious threat” in Iran.
His report also cited “significant reports” of arrests and threats against journalists for their independent reporting, including on the protests.
As of the end of July, Rehman said, 21 journalists remained jailed, including Niloofar Hamedi and Elaheh Mohammadi, who reported Amini’s death and are accused of “collaborating with the hostile American government,” “colluding against national security” and engaging in propaganda activity against the authorities.
“These charges carry harsh sentences and potentially even the death penalty.” he said.
Rehman also cited “alarming reports of suspected poisonings in girls’ schools across the country.” He expressed concern at the timing of the incidents, which began only a few weeks after the nationwide protests.
Since the first case was reported in Qom Province last Nov. 30, he said, 78 targeted poison attacks have been reported in more than 100 girls’ schools across Iran. More than 13,000 students, the majority of them girls, reportedly received medical treatment, he said. Symptoms included coughing, difficulty breathing, heart palpitations, headaches, nausea, vomiting and numbness in arms and legs.
Many parents reportedly took their daughters out of school for fear of these attacks, Rehman said.
He expressed serious concern that authorities have subjected the schoolgirls, their parents, teachers, journalists and others to harassment and violence — and have intimidated and arrested those calling for accountability and accusing Iranian authorities of complicity or failure to stop the poisonings.
Rehman reported an “alarming increase in the number of executions” in 2022 — at least 582, including 256 for drug-related offenses. As of July 31, he added, 419 people had reportedly been executed this year, including at least 239 for drug-related offenses.
Since the nationwide protests began, at least seven people have been executed for their involvement, Rehman said. The government claimed that six of the defendants confessed to attacking and killing Basij, paramilitary volunteers who are fiercely loyal to the Islamic Republic, or police officers, he said.
Rehman said he is “extremely concerned at reports of confessions extracted through torture and of the death penalty having been implemented after court proceedings that substantially violated the right to fair trial.” He said he views the executions of the seven protesters as a violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.


 UAE president discusses Gaza crisis with regional leaders

 UAE president discusses Gaza crisis with regional leaders
Updated 15 April 2024
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 UAE president discusses Gaza crisis with regional leaders

 UAE president discusses Gaza crisis with regional leaders
  • The UAE, Jordan, Bahrain and Qatar emphasized the imperative of preventing further regional escalation

UAE President, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, held telephone discussions on Monday with regional leaders, including Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, Emir of Qatar, King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein of Jordan, and King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa of Bahrain.

They addressed pressing regional issues, particularly the escalating crisis in the Gaza Strip, and the urgency of achieving a ceasefire and safeguarding civilian lives in accordance with international humanitarian laws.

They emphasized the imperative of preventing further regional escalation, they reiterated support for a just, comprehensive, and lasting peace through a two-state solution, crucial for ensuring stability and security across the region.

Coordination among Arab nations and concerted international efforts were highlighted as essential steps toward resolving conflicts and advancing peace initiatives.


Iran says it gave warning before attacking Israel. US says that’s not true

Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian (L) and US President Joe Biden. (Agencies)
Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian (L) and US President Joe Biden. (Agencies)
Updated 15 April 2024
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Iran says it gave warning before attacking Israel. US says that’s not true

Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian (L) and US President Joe Biden. (Agencies)
  • Iran launched hundreds of drones and missiles on Saturday in a retaliatory strike against Israel
  • Washington says did have contact with Iran through Swiss intermediaries but did not get notice 72 hours in advance

WASHINGTON/BAGHDAD/DUBAI: Turkish, Jordanian and Iraqi officials said on Sunday that Iran gave wide notice days before its drone and missile attack on Israel, but US officials said Tehran did not warn Washington and that it was aiming to cause significant damage.
Iran launched hundreds of drones and missiles on Saturday in a retaliatory strike after a suspected Israeli strike on its embassy compound in Syria.
Most of the drones and missiles were downed before reaching Israeli territory, though a young girl was critically injured and there were widespread concerns of further escalation.
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said on Sunday that Iran gave neighboring countries and Israel’s ally the United States 72 hours’ notice it would launch the strikes.
Turkiye’s Foreign Ministry said it had spoken to both Washington and Tehran before the attack, adding it had conveyed messages as an intermediary to be sure reactions were proportionate.
“Iran said the reaction would be a response to Israel’s attack on its embassy in Damascus and that it would not go beyond this. We were aware of the possibilities. The developments were not a surprise,” said a Turkish diplomatic source.
One senior official in US President Joe Biden’s administration denied Amirabdollahian’s statement, saying Washington did have contact with Iran through Swiss intermediaries but did not get notice 72 hours in advance.
“That is absolutely not true,” the official said. “They did not give a notification, nor did they give any sense of ... ‘these will be the targets, so evacuate them.’“
Tehran sent the United States a message only after the strikes began and the intent was to be “highly destructive” said the official, adding that Iran’s claim of a widespread warning may be an attempt to compensate for the lack of any major damage from the attack.
“We received a message from the Iranians as this was ongoing, through the Swiss. This was basically suggesting that they were finished after this, but it was still an ongoing attack. So that was (their) message to us,” the US official said.
Iraqi, Turkish and Jordanian officials each said Iran had provided early warning of the attack last week, including some details.
The attack with drones, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles risked causing major casualties and escalating the conflict.
US officials said on Friday and Saturday they expected an imminent attack and urged Iran against one, with Biden tersely saying his only message to Tehran was: “Don’t.”

ESCALATION
Two Iraqi sources, including a government security adviser and a security official, said Iran had used diplomatic channels to inform Baghdad about the attack at least three days before it happened.
The exact timing of the attack was not disclosed at that point, but was passed to Iraqi security and military authorities hours before the strikes, allowing Baghdad to close its airspace and avoid fatal accidents.
“The government clearly understood from the Iranian officials that the US military in Iraq was also aware of the attack in advance,” said the Iraqi security official.
A senior Jordanian official said Iran had summoned Arab envoys in Tehran on Wednesday to inform them of their intention to carry out an attack, though it did not specify the timing.
Asked if Iran had also given details about the targets and kind of weapons to be used, the Jordanian source did not respond directly but indicated that that was the case.
An Iranian source briefed on the matter said Iran had informed the US through diplomatic channels that included Qatar, Turkiye and Switzerland about the scheduled day of the attack, saying it would be conducted in a manner to avoid provoking a response.
How far escalation can be avoided remains in question. Biden has told Israel the United States will not join any Israeli retaliation, the US official said.
However, Israel is still weighing its response and will “exact the price from Iran in the fashion and timing that is right for us,” Israeli minister Benny Gantz said on Sunday.

 


Israelis rattled by Iranian attack, fear escalation

A man crosses an empty street in Jerusalem on April 14, 2024. (AFP)
A man crosses an empty street in Jerusalem on April 14, 2024. (AFP)
Updated 15 April 2024
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Israelis rattled by Iranian attack, fear escalation

A man crosses an empty street in Jerusalem on April 14, 2024. (AFP)
  • Israel has killed more than 33,686 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry

JERUSALEM: The first direct attack on Israel by Iran has shaken Israelis and left them fearful that a bigger war is looming.
While the population has long been used to sirens warning of attacks from Hamas, the hundreds of drones and missiles sent from Iran over Saturday night marked a new element in the over-lapping Middle East conflicts.
Israel reported modest damage on Sunday after the military said it shot down almost all of the more than 300 drones and missiles launched by Iran.
But the attack still rattled Israelis, whose army has fought Hamas for years in Gaza but never engaged in direct warfare with regional superpower Iran. Iranian weapons and interceptors could be seen flashing over the sky at night.

I hope there won’t be a big war; none of us in Israel wants a big war, so I hope that’s it, and I hope Iran would stop no.

Jeremy Smith, Resident of Tzur Hadassah

“I think it was quite scary when we started hearing booming in the middle of the night, and we did not know what it was. I mean, we knew what it was, but we didn’t know to what extent it would be,” said Jerusalem resident Cecile Smulowitz.
“But thank God the Israeli army came through, and so far it’s quiet, and we hope it will continue that way.”
Iran mounted its attack in retaliation for a suspected Israeli air strike on Tehran’s embassy compound in Damascus on April 1, which killed 13 people. Israel has neither confirmed nor denied carrying out the attack but is widely believed to have done so.
Following Iranian senior leader Ali Khamenei’s promise to hit back, Israelis were put on high alert.
Iran warned Israel and the US on Sunday of a “much larger response” if there was any retaliation for its mass drone and missile attack.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has repeatedly told the world that Iran is an existential threat to the Jewish state, vowed Israel would achieve victory.
The threat of open warfare erupting between Iran and Israel and dragging the US into the conflict has put the region on edge.
Some Israelis said they did not want an escalation, but with the stakes so high, they are nervous despite having the most powerful and technologically advanced military in the region.
“I hope there won’t be a big war; none of us in Israel wants a big war, so I hope that’s it, and I hope Iran would stop now,” said Jeremy Smith, 60, a resident of Tzur Hadassah.
“I imagine Israel will respond because, I mean, our whole country was covered in missiles and drones. So what can you do? But we have to stop it somehow.”
Before the Iranian attack, Israeli authorities had instructed the public not to hold large gatherings, to close all schools and venues for children’s camps during the Jewish holiday of Passover, and to close some beaches and travel sites.
“We didn’t want the war with Hamas. They attacked us. We don’t want a war with Iran, they attack us,” said Jerusalem resident Amy Friedlang Morgans, 71.
“We don’t want a war with Iran. They, somehow, cannot accept Jewish people living here. This is our homeland. It’s written in the Bible.”
The Iranian attack took place against the background of the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, in which Israeli forces have killed more than 33,000 Palestinians, according to the Gaza health ministry figures.

 


Ambrey says Israel intercepted UAV ‘launched from Yemen’

Ambrey says Israel intercepted UAV ‘launched from Yemen’
Updated 15 April 2024
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Ambrey says Israel intercepted UAV ‘launched from Yemen’

Ambrey says Israel intercepted UAV ‘launched from Yemen’
  • Israel used its seaborne missile defense system for the first time on Tuesday to shoot down a drone approaching from the Red Sea that had set off sirens in the port city of Eilat, the military said

CAIRO: British security firm Ambrey said on Sunday that Israel Defense Forces (IDF) intercepted an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) near Eilat, stating that it assessed the UAV was launched from Yemen.
Ambrey said it also observed unprecedented levels of Automatic Identification Systems (AIS)interference off Eilat and neighboring Aqaba, Jordan, on Sunday.
“These were due to electronic warfare counter-measures,” the statement said.
“A Sa’ar 6-class corvette successfully intercepted a UAV that approached Israeli territory from the southeast using the ‘C-Dome’ Defense System earlier this evening,” the IDF posted on X.
Israel used its seaborne missile defense system for the first time on Tuesday to shoot down a drone approaching from the Red Sea that had set off sirens in the port city of Eilat, the military said.
Eilat has been a frequent target for launches by Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen as a show of support for Hamas, the Palestinian group that rules Gaza and is also backed by Iran.

 


US judge tosses out lawsuits against Libyan commander accused of war crimes

US judge tosses out lawsuits against Libyan commander accused of war crimes
Updated 15 April 2024
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US judge tosses out lawsuits against Libyan commander accused of war crimes

US judge tosses out lawsuits against Libyan commander accused of war crimes
  • The ruling was a significant reversal of fortune for Haftar

ALEXANDRIA, Virginia: A US judge has tossed out a series of civil lawsuits against a Libyan military commander who used to live in Virginia and was accused of killing innocent civilians in that country’s civil war.
At a court hearing Friday, US District Judge Leonie Brinkema said she had no jurisdiction to preside over a case alleging war crimes committed in Libya, even though the defendant, Khalifa Haftar, has US citizenship and lived for more than 20 years in the northern Virginia suburbs of the nation’s capital as an exile from the regime of Muammar Qaddafi.
The ruling was a significant reversal of fortune for Haftar. In 2022, Brinkema entered a default judgment against Haftar after he refused to sit for scheduled depositions about his role in the fighting that has plagued the country over the last decade.
But Haftar retained new lawyers who persuaded the judge to reopen the case and made Haftar available to be deposed. He sat for two separate depositions in 2022 and 2023 and denied orchestrating attacks against civilians.
Once a lieutenant to Qaddafi, Haftar defected to the US during the 1980s. He is widely believed to have worked with the CIA during his time in exile.
He returned to Libya in 2011 to support anti-Qaddafi forces that revolted against the dictator and killed him. During the country’s civil war, he led the self-styled Libyan National Army, which controlled much of the eastern half of Libya, with support from countries including Russia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. He continues to hold sway in the eastern half of the country.
In the lawsuits, first filed in 2019, the plaintiffs say family members were killed by military bombardments conducted by Haftar’s army in civilian areas.
The lawsuits also alleged that Haftar and his family owned a significant amount of property in Virginia, which could have been used to pay off any judgment that would have been entered against him.
While the lawsuits were tossed out on technical issues over jurisdiction, one of Haftar’s lawyers, Paul Kamenar, said Haftar denied any role in the deaths of civilians.
“He’s not this ruthless figure that everyone wants to portray him as,” Kamenar said in a phone interview Sunday.
Faisal Gill, a lawyer for plaintiffs in one of the three lawsuits that Brinkema tossed out Friday, said he plans to appeal the dismissal.
Mark Zaid, lawyer for another set of plaintiffs, called Brinkema’s ruling perplexing and said he believes that the court’s jurisdiction to hear the case had already been established at an earlier phase of the case.
“A US citizen committed war crimes abroad and thus far has escaped civil accountability,” Zaid said Sunday in an emailed statement.
In court papers, Haftar tried to claim immunity from the suits as a head of state. At one point, the judge put the cases on pause because she worried that the lawsuits were being used to influence scheduled presidential elections in Libya, in which Haftar was a candidate. Those elections were later postponed.