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Statements Independent investigation

Oral update by Sara Hossain, Chairperson of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Islamic Republic of Iran

05 July 2023

53rd session of the Human Rights Council

Oral update by Sara Hossain, Chairperson of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Islamic Republic of Iran

Geneva, 5 July 2023

Mr. President, Distinguished Delegates, Observers, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am honoured to address the Human Rights Council today on behalf of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Islamic Republic of Iran (FFMI), together with my fellow members, Professor Shaheen Sardar Ali and Ms. Viviana Krsticevic.

Our mandate was established amidst unprecedented nationwide protests that followed the death of 22-year-old Jina Mahsa Amini while in the custody of the morality police in Tehran for her alleged non-observance of Iran’s law on forced veiling. Ten months on, Jina Mahsa’s family’s right to truth and justice remain unfulfilled and we are concerned that domestic investigations have fallen short of international human rights norms and standards, including the requirements of promptness, independence, and transparency. The lack of transparency around the investigations into her death is further evidenced by the arrest and continued detention of the two women journalists, Nilufar Hamedi and Elahe Mohammadi, who first reported on the event.

In Resolution S-35/1, the Council expressed deep concern over the “violent crackdown on peaceful protests by security forces” following the death in custody of Jina Mahsa, “arbitrary arrests and detentions, sexual and gender-based violence, excessive use of force, torture and other inhumane treatment, enforced disappearances” and “the deaths of hundreds of peaceful protesters”. This Council also expressed deep concern about “physical, psychological and sexual abuse of women and girls […] for exercising their human rights and fundamental freedoms” and placed the rights of women and girls in Iran at the centre of its resolution mandating this FFM.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

News of the protests in Iran no longer dominates daily news bulletins, as it did in November, when this Council's Special session mandated this investigation. But allegations of human rights violations in this connection continue to be heard and received.

The Government of Iran has announced that 22,000 people have been pardoned in connection with the protests. This suggests that many more were detained or charged. No official and disaggregated data exists on the nature of the accusations against them, or on those convicted, still detained or charged for their involvement in the protests. Of further concern to us are the conditions of these pardons, namely that protesters were reportedly made to “express remorse” and to effectively admit guilt through signing written undertakings pledging that they would not commit "similar crimes" in the future. Among those remaining in detention, are at least 17 journalists, for their alleged reporting on the protests, alongside many human rights defenders and lawyers defending the protestors. Reports also continue to emerge of arrests and detentions of protesters, including women and girls refusing to comply with the country’s forced veiling laws.

The FFM also expresses serious concerns about continuous reports of harassment of family members seeking justice for their loved ones, including children, who were killed during the protest. There are also disturbing reports of harassment and intimidation of journalists, lawyers and human rights defenders and their families in the context of the protests.

Harsh punishments continue to be meted out to those involved in the protests, including for exercising rights protected under international human rights law. These are being imposed following legal proceedings that lack transparency and fail to meet basic fair trial and due process guarantees. Since November, at least 26 individuals have reportedly been sentenced to death in connection with the protests and dozens more have been charged with or face offences carrying the death penalty. Most chilling, seven men have already been executed following hasty proceedings marred by serious allegations of fair trial violations, including confessions extracted under torture. On 31 May, amid an alarming rise in the number of executions in the country, Iran’s Head of the Judiciary announced that the authorities would continue to execute people sentenced to death in connection with the protests.

We call on the Iranian authorities to stop the executions of individuals convicted and sentenced to death in connection with the protests and reiterate our requests to make available to us the judicial files, evidence, and judgments regarding each of these persons. We also call on the Iranian authorities to release all those detained for exercising their legitimate right to peaceful assembly and for reporting on the protests.

Mr. President,

The HRC’s mandate had centered reports of violations of the rights of women and girls, and those who acted in solidarity with them.

The FFM is seriously concerned at the reports, just two months after the protests started, of a series of alleged poisonings in dozens of schools in 28 provinces, affecting directly and indirectly, the human rights of thousands of girls, including their right to access education. Reports that these may have been orchestrated as a means to punish girls for, or to deter them from involvement in the protests, are being duly investigated in the framework of our mandate.

Also seriously concerning, in a context of continuous repression of those opposing forced veiling, is the reported use of facial recognition technologies to identify and arrest women and girls failing to comply with these fundamentally discriminatory laws. At the same time, information is emerging about women and girl students being suspended from their studies or banned from dormitories for their defiance of the compulsory veiling laws, while businesses are fined or closed for non-enforcement.

Two draft Bills have recently been placed for consideration including before the Majles with the view to increasing punishments on women and girls found in breach of forced veiling provisions. If enacted, these Bills will expose women and girls to increased risks of violence, harassment and arbitrary detention and entrench discrimination, representing yet another set-back for the growing number of women and girls demanding their right to equality and to freedom of expression, including the freedom to choose whether or not to wear the hijab.

Mr. President,

The mandate of this Fact-Finding Mission, as set out in operative paragraph seven of Resolution S-35/1, is threefold. First, to thoroughly and independently investigate alleged human rights violations in the Islamic Republic of Iran related to the protests that started on 16 September 2022, especially with respect to women and children. Second, to establish the facts and circumstances surrounding such alleged violations. And third, to collect, consolidate and analyse evidence of such violations and to preserve it, including in view of cooperation in any legal proceedings.

In discharging our mandate, we are paying specific attention to areas of concern highlighted in the resolution. We are analysing whether these follow particular patterns, and their possible root causes, and examining the relevant legal, historical, social and political context. As requested by this Council, we are also paying special attention to allegations of violations affecting women and children, and their impact on those from diverse ethnic, religious or cultural identities. We will duly investigate the allegations of disproportionate impact of the violations on minorities. We will go where the evidence leads us and identify those responsible for any human rights violations.

The FFM aims to ensure the promotion and protection of human rights. Accordingly, each member of this Mission has committed to carry out our mandate independently, impartially, and conscientiously, in accordance with the principles and values of the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In this respect, I wish to make it emphatically clear that we have not and will not accept instructions from any government or entity.

The FFM on Iran attaches great importance to engaging with the Iranian people and with the Government. Since our appointment, we have sent seven letters to the Iranian authorities, including repeated requests for a visit to Iran to meet all concerned stakeholders, and to hear directly from those affected by or involved in the protests, including government officials and public authorities, and to gather information critical to our investigations. We have just yesterday met with the Iranian President’s recently appointed “Special Committee to investigate the 2022 unrests” and will look into its work in light of the criteria under international human rights law and standards applicable to domestic investigations, including promptness, independence, impartiality, transparency, thoroughness and effectiveness. We have also reviewed and analysed the Government’s 37 reports issued since September 2022. However, we have yet to receive a response to our requests for information and access to the country.

Mr. President,

In January, the FFM posted a call for submissions on its webpage in English and Persian. We are grateful for the responses received and encourage anyone with relevant information to communicate with us.

Every person affected has a right to communicate their views and provide evidence directly to the Fact-Finding Mission. Regrettably, state-imposed restrictions on communications affecting landline and mobile Internet connections, constitute major impediments to this right.

We are attempting to overcome these challenges and establish secure channels to speak to anyone who wishes to communicate with us. We are following a victim-centred approach to keep the security, protection, rights and dignity of victims of human rights violations at the forefront. Going forward, we will listen to the voices of a wide range of people and ensure that our findings are based on the broadest and most comprehensive information. We will report to this Council and to the Secretary-General any allegations of harassment, intimidation, reprisals or threats against witnesses, victims and other sources and any interference with the process of our investigation in accordance with HRC resolution 12/2.

Mr. President,

In closing, I reiterate our call to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to fully cooperate with our mandate and to ensure that all those affected have unhindered and safe access to providing evidence.

The authorities of the Islamic Republic of Iran have an obligation to ensure the enjoyment of the rights of all in the country not to be discriminated against and to be free from violence. Women and girls are no exception.

They hold the primary duty to ensure accountability for alleged human rights violations related to the protests that started on 16 September 2022. This includes prosecuting and punishing those responsible, providing reparations to all victims, and addressing the root causes of these violations.

The people of Iran, including women and girls, have fundamental rights to equality, truth, justice, accountability and reparations. We will over the remaining months make every effort to support them on this journey to achieving these legitimate aspirations.

Thank you.