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Iran: Institutional discrimination against women and girls enabled human rights violations and crimes against humanity in the context of recent protests, UN Fact-Finding Mission says

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08 March 2024
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نسخه فارسی پیوست شده است. (PDF)

GENEVA (8 March 2024) –The violent repression of peaceful protests and pervasive institutional discrimination against women and girls has led to serious human rights violations by the Government of Iran, many amounting to crimes against humanity, the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Islamic Republic of Iran said in its first report today.

The report to the Human Rights Council said violations and crimes under international law committed in the context of the “Woman, Life, Freedom” protests that began on 16 September 2022 include extra-judicial and unlawful killings and murder, unnecessary and disproportionate use of force, arbitrary deprivation of liberty, torture, rape, enforced disappearances, and gender persecution.

Human rights violations have disproportionately impacted women, children and members of ethnic and religious minorities. The Mission found that gender persecution intersected with discrimination on the basis of ethnicity and religion.

“These acts form part of a widespread and systematic attack directed against the civilian population in Iran, namely against women, girls, boys and men who have demanded freedom, equality, dignity and accountability,” said Sara Hossain, chair of the Fact-Finding Mission. “We urge the Government to immediately halt the repression of those who have engaged in peaceful protests, in particular women and girls.”

The protests in Iran were triggered by the death in the custody of the so-called morality police, in September 2022, of Jina Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian-Kurdish woman, after her arrest for alleged non-observance of Iran’s laws on mandatory hijab. The Mission found that physical violence in custody led to Ms. Amini’s unlawful death. Rather than investigating this unlawful death promptly, effectively, and thoroughly - as required under international human rights law - the Government actively obfuscated the truth, and denied justice.

Authorities then mobilized the entire security apparatus of the State to repress the protesters who took to the streets after Ms. Amini’s death. Credible figures suggest that as many as 551 protesters were killed by the security forces, among them at least 49 women and 68 children. Most deaths were caused by firearms, including assault rifles.

The Fact-Finding Mission found, in the cases investigated, that security forces used unnecessary and disproportionate force which resulted in the unlawful killing and injuries of protestors. A pattern of extensive injuries to protesters’ eyes caused the blinding of scores of women, men and children, branding them for life. The Mission also found evidence of extrajudicial killings.

The Mission acknowledged that security forces have been killed and injured, but found that the majority of protests have been peaceful.

Security forces repressed protests through a pattern of arbitrary arrests, including of people who merely danced, chanted, wrote slogans on walls, honked car horns, or posted on social media in support of their demands, including for women’s rights, equality and accountability. Many were blindfolded and taken away in unmarked vehicles, including ambulances. Hundreds of children, some as young as 10, were arrested and separated from their families without any information about their whereabouts.

In detention, the State authorities tortured victims to extract confessions or to intimidate, humiliate or inflict punishment. The Mission found cases of women and girls subjected to rape and other forms of sexual and gender-based violence, including gang rape, rape with an object, electrocution of genitalia, forced nudity and groping. Security forces characterised women’s demands for equality and non-discrimination as a “willingness to get naked” and “spreading immorality.”

The Fact-Finding Mission found that the Government arbitrarily executed at least nine young men from December 2022 to January 2024, after summary trials which relied on confessions extracted under torture and ill-treatment .Dozens of individuals, remain at risk of execution or receiving a death sentence in relation to the protests. Women and children have been among the many charged with capital offences since the start of the protests.

Many are still paying a high price for having supported the “Woman, Life, Freedom” movement. Authorities are doubling down on their repression of families of victims, journalists, human rights defenders, lawyers, medical doctors and many others simply for expressing their views, supporting the protesters or seeking truth and justice for victims.

State authorities at the highest levels encouraged, sanctioned and endorsed human rights violations through statements justifying the acts and conduct of the security forces. They engaged in a disinformation campaign depicting protesters as “rioters”, “foreign agents” and or “separatist” groups. State security forces, in particular the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Basij forces and the Law Enforcement Command of the Islamic Republic of Iran (Faraja), among others, participated in the commission of serious human rights violations and crimes under international law.

The authorities in Iran have prevented and obstructed efforts of victims and their families to obtain a remedy and reparation. Victims face a justice system lacking independence, transparency and accountability, the Fact-Finding Mission found.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran has the obligation to uphold the rights of women and children, and to ensure the right to truth, justice, and reparations of all victims,” said Viviana Krsticevic, Member of the Fact-Finding Mission. ”Given the deeply rooted institutional discrimination against Iranian women and girls, they are owed transformative reparations that guarantee their full, free and equal participation in all spheres of Iranian society. Given our findings, this would entail, among other measures, an overhaul of criminal and civil laws, a reform of the justice system, and measures for accountability.”

The Fact-Finding Mission regrets the lack of meaningful cooperation by the Iranian authorities with the mandate, despite repeated requests for information, including information on killing of and injuries to security forces and its denial of access to the country and people. It further notes the total lack of transparency with regard to the Government’s own reported investigations into allegations of serious human rights violations.

Absent effective remedies and in light of the systemic and historic impunity for violations in Iran, Member States should explore avenues for accountability at international level and in their domestic systems. The Fact-Finding Mission calls on States to apply the principle of universal jurisdiction to all crimes under international law without procedural limitations, establish victim funds, jointly or individually, and provide protection, including by granting asylum and humanitarian visas to those fleeing persecution in Iran in the context of the protests.

“We urge the Iranian authorities to halt all executions and immediately and unconditionally release all persons arbitrarily arrested and detained in the context of the protests, and to end the repression of protesters, their families and supporters of the Woman, Life, Freedom movement,” said Shaheen Sardar Ali, a member of the Fact-Finding Mission.

Background: The UN Human Rights Council mandated the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Islamic Republic of Iran on 24 November 2022 to investigate alleged human rights violations in the Islamic Republic of Iran related to the protests that began there on 16 September 2022, especially with respect to women and children. On 20 December 2022, the President of the Human Rights Council announced the appointment of Sara Hossain (Bangladesh), Shaheen Sardar Ali (Pakistan) and Viviana Krsticevic (Argentina) to serve as the three independent members of the Mission and appointed Sara Hossain as its Chair.

More information on the work of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Islamic Republic of Iran can be found here.

For more information and media requests, please contact: Ahmad Azadi, Iran Fact-Finding Mission Communications Officer, at [email protected], or Todd Pitman, Media Adviser for the HRC’s Investigative Missions, at [email protected], Cell: +41 76 691 1761, or Pascal Sim, HRC Media Officer, at [email protected].

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