In November, Iran witnessed massive popular unrest. Widespread protests followed the government’s abrupt decision on 15 November to raise gas prices. What ensued marked one of the most violent clampdowns in the regime’s history.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Friday expressed alarm at the deadly use of force.
She highlighted the lack of transparency about casualties of the November protests and said the picture emerging from Iran is “extremely disturbing.”
“Live ammunition against demonstrators” in front of camera
Security forces responded to unarmed protesters with water cannon, tear gas, batons and live ammunition. And according to some reports, said the OHCHR, the Basij militia, and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps used live ammunition against demonstrators.
“Verified video footage indicates severe violence was used against protesters, including armed members of security forces shooting from the roof of a justice department building in one city, and from helicopters in another,” Ms. Bachelet asserted.
She added that the OHCHR has also received footage showing security forces shooting unarmed demonstrators from behind as they ran away and other straight on, “in other words shooting to kill”.
Bachelet said that at least 7,000 people have reportedly been arrested in 28 of Iran’s 31 provinces since mass protests broke out on 15 November, saying that she was “extremely concerned about their physical treatment, violations of their right to due process, and the possibility that a significant number of them may be charged with offenses that carry the death penalty, in addition to the conditions under which they are held.”
The UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) has information suggesting that at least 208 people were killed during five days of demonstrations, which official Government sources said involved between 120,000 and 200,000 protestors. Other, yet unverified reports, convey the number of deaths to be more than doubled that. Among those killed include at least 12 children.
“They must undertake prompt, independent and impartial investigations into all violations that have taken place, including the killing of protesters and reported deaths and ill-treatment in custody”, stressed the UN rights chief. “And those responsible must be held accountable”.
“In such circumstances, with so many reported deaths, it is essential the authorities act with far greater transparency,” Bachelet said.
She pointed out that there appear to be “multiple violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Iran has ratified and is obliged to uphold.”
OHCHR has received numerous reports of ill-treatment against those arrested, including forced confessions.
“Many of the arrested protesters have not had access to a lawyer, meaning the due process is not being respected,” Ms. Bachelet continued. “There are also reports that individuals who were wounded or otherwise injured during the crackdown are being denied medical treatment in detention.”
“As the truth is trickling out of Iran, it appears the regime could have murdered over a thousand Iranian citizens since the protests began,” US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook, said on 5 December.