Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville
Date: 5 March 2021
In Iran, we condemn use of force violations in recent weeks by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and state security forces against unarmed fuel couriers and protesters belonging to the Baluch minority, which has reportedly led to the killing of at least 12individuals, including at least two minors.
The series of violent events and unrest began on 22 February, when Revolutionary Guards are alleged to have shot and killed at least 10 fuel couriers, known as sookhtbar, in Sistan and Baluchistan Province at the border with Pakistan, after a two-day stand-off triggered by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps blocking the road to the city of Saravan.
The killings triggered demonstrations in several cities across the province, during which the IRGC and security forces fired lethal ammunition at protesters and bystanders, leading to the killing of at least two more people and serious injuries to several dozen others. Local authorities have reported that one policeman has also died during the protests in the city of Korin.
According to some estimates, which we are unable to confirm, as many as 23 people may have been killed in all. Precise verification of the death toll has been made more difficult following disruptions of local mobile data networks. We are deeply concerned by the widespread shutdown of the internet across several cities in Sistan and Baluchestan Province, with the apparent purpose of preventing access to information about what is happening there. Blanket internet shutdowns violate the principles of necessity and proportionality applicable to restrictions of freedom of expression and constitute a violation of international human rights law.
We call on the authorities to immediately restore internet access in areas that remain disconnected.
We deplore the systematic intentional use of lethal force by Iranian border officials, especially against border couriers from the Kurdish and Baluch minorities, and call for immediate measures to end the impunity that perpetuates this practice. During 2020, a total of 59 Kurdish couriers were reported to have been killed by border officials in provinces in the north-west of Iran. We call for prompt, impartial and full investigations into all such killings, and accountability for those found to be responsible for unlawful use of force leading to death or serious injury. Victims and their families have the right to truth and redress.
Under international human rights standards, firearms should only be used to defend against the imminent threat of death or serious injury and intentional lethal use of firearms is only justified when strictly unavoidable to protect life.
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