Joint call for the UN Human Rights Council to take urgent action on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran in relation to the repression of popular protests

Joint call for the UN Human Rights Council to take urgent action on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran in relation to the repression of popular protests

16 December 2019

undersigned regional and international civil society organisations call on
member states of the UN Human Rights Council to urgently convene a Special Session on the
situation of human rights in Iran in order to respond to the unfolding grave human rights crisis born out of the
repression of nation-wide protests, which started on 15 November 2019
and continued for at least five days.

rights monitors have documented a brutal crackdown in the country
since 15 November, including the unlawful use of lethal force against  protesters, resulting in at
least 304 deaths, based on credible reports received by Amnesty International; the arrests
of thousands of protesters, some of whom may face death sentences, others of
whom have been forcibly disappeared or otherwise arbitrarily detained and
denied access to their families and lawyers of their own choosing. The
authorities’ violent repression, including unlawful killings, took place under
the cover of a
near total shutdown of the global Internet in Iran.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
has expressed concern at reports of ill-treatment
and deaths in custody. Iran’s well documented record of denying detainees
due process rights from the time of arrest and its failure to uphold fair trial
standards, coupled with Iranian officials calling for charges
that carry the death penalty against protest “leaders”, create an
urgent concern
for the fate of those arrested.

The Human Rights Council should respond
promptly to this human rights emergency through the convening of a Special
Session, in order to mandate
an independent inquiry and to call for accountability
for the violations of human rights occuring in the framework of the repression
of protests, and to fulfil its preventive mandate by preventing further
violations of the rights
of detainees and others, who are at imminent risk, in line with General Assembly resolution 60/251 of 15
March 2006.

of peaceful protests, including through the massive use of lethal force

security forces’ horrific killing spree has taken place with complete impunity.
From 15 November 2019, they used lethal and excessive force to crush protests
that took place in more than 100 cities across Iran and unlawfully killed and
injured protesters. The number of people believed to have been killed during
the demonstrations has risen to at least 304, based on credible reports
received by Amnesty International, though the real death toll is likely to be
significantly higher.

accounts from eyewitnesses and victims’ relatives, information gathered from
human rights activists and journalists outside Iran and extensive verified
video footage all provide clear evidence that the security forces have used
firearms against protesters who posed no imminent threat to life. The scale of lethal
force and other unnecessary or excessive force used against unarmed protesters
is an escalation of past abusive practices of Iran’s security forces, who have
previously unlawfully killed and injured protesters with impunity.

The High
Commissioner for Human Rights noted that at least 7,000 people have reportedly been

Within 48 hours
of the start of the protests, the authorities implemented a near total shutdown
of global Internet communications, cutting off nearly all means of online communications
for people inside Iran. The National
Information Network, which kept domestic platforms online throughout the
shutdown, is known to be monitored by Iranian officials. The resulting
information blackout was a deliberate attempt by the authorities to prevent
people from sharing images and videos of the deadly force being used by
security forces. Shutting down communications over the Internet is a systematic
assault on the right to freedom of expression, which includes the right to
seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media. This has
placed barriers to international monitors – including UN human rights experts –
and their efforts to document the unfolding situation in the country. To this
date, authorities have refused to announce the total number of those killed
during the crackdown.

Concerns regarding the situation of prisoners

Amongst the
thousands detained since the protests began are journalists, students and human
rights defenders. The undersigned organizations are seriously concerned about
the fate and whereabouts of the detainees. While some have been released, many
of the detainees remain forcibly disappeared or have otherwise been arbitrarily
detained and denied access to their families and lawyers of their own choosing.
Harrowing reports show that some detainees have been subjected to torture and
other ill-treatment in detention centres and prisons. Consistent with past
patterns of abuse, the authorities have broadcast the “confessions” of several
detainees likely obtained under duress or torture and other ill-treatment.

statements by government officials, including by the Supreme Leader and head
of judiciary, have called protesters “villains” and
“rioters” and
associated protesters with foreign powers.
The Iranian authorities have also called for the executions of protest

The head of the Public
and Revolutionary courts in Tehran has stated that “special branches will be formed in the courts, and with speed and care
judicial decision-making will take place
” in reference
to plans to prosecute protesters who have been arrested, raising concerns that
defendants will be tried unfairly by these special courts. Authorities have
previously used such special courts to deny defendants’ access to lawyers of
their own choosing and the right to appeal.

We regard these statements,
along with the mass arrests across the country, as warning signs. They point
to the imminent
risk of further mass violations of due process and fair trial standards,
which would
result in yet more cases of arbitrary detentions, torture and other
ill-treatment and possibly death sentences.

Call for a Special Session

In light of these grave
concerns, the
undersigned organisations urge the members of the UN Human Rights Council to
convene a special session of the HRC in order to seize itself of this
situation, with the aim of:

  • Mandating an independent inquiry into the allegations of grave human rights violations, including unlawful killings, torture and enforced disappearances, that have taken place inside the country since 15 November. The inquiry should report on its findings to the Human Rights Council, and its report should include recommendations on how to ensure Iran upholds its human rights obligations, including in the context of the protests and their aftermath, and on bringing those responsible for serious human rights violations to justice in fair trials;
  • Calling on Iran to give full and unrestricted access to those conducting this inquiry, as well as to UN officials, including special procedures mandates, including to places of detention and to monitor trials related to the protests and their aftermath.


Boroumand Center for Human Rights in Iran

Association for the Human Rights of the Azerbaijani people in Iran

All Human
Rights for All in Iran


Arseh Sevom



Institute for Human Rights Studies

Center for
Human Rights in Iran

Centre for
Supporters of Human Rights

Together against the Death Penalty

International Federation for Human Rights

Rights Watch

Human Rights Activists in Iran

Impact Iran

Iran Human

Iran Human
Rights Documentation Center

Justice for

Kurdistan Human Rights – Geneva (KMMK-G)

Action International


Pourzand Foundation

Small Media

United for

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