The Mandate of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Islamic Republic of Iran Extended for Another Year

On 24 November 2022, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) adopted the resolution S35/1, on the deteriorating situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, and decided to establish an independent international fact-finding mission on the Islamic Republic of Iran for one year.

As reported on the website of the Human Rights Council of the UN, after an oral update was presented to the Human Rights Council during an interactive dialogue at the fifty-third session of the Council on 5 July 2023 and later a comprehensive report was presented to the Council during an interactive dialogue at its fifty-fifth session on 18 March 2024, the Council voted on 4 April 2024 to extend the mandate of the Fact-Finding Mission (FFMI) for an additional year by adopting resolution A/HRC/55/L.6, in order

  1. To thoroughly and independently investigate alleged human rights violations in the Islamic Republic of Iran related to the protests that began on 16 September 2022, especially with respect to women and children;
  2. To establish the facts and circumstances surrounding the alleged violations;
  3. To collect, consolidate and analyse evidence of such violations and preserve evidence, including in view of cooperation in any legal proceedings;
  4. To engage with all relevant stakeholders, including the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, relevant United Nations entities, human rights organizations and civil society.

This resolution of the UNHRC was adopted by a recorded vote of 24 in favour, 8 against, and 15 abstentions. This decision highlights the fact that the Islamic Republic’s accountability for its atrocities committed during the violent suppression of the “Woman, Life, Freedom” uprising in Iran is non-negotiable.

The Council requested the Fact-Finding Mission to present a report and recommendations to the Human Rights Council at its fifty-eighth session during a joint interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur. The members of the FFMI are Sara Hossain, chair (Bangladesh), Shaheen Sardar Ali (Pakistan), and Viviana Krsticevic (Argentina).

The FFMI has invited individuals, groups and organizations to submit information and documentation relevant to its mandate.

At the 55th session of the Human Rights Council on 18 March 2024, Sara Hossain, Chairperson of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Islamic Republic of Iran, delivered the Mission’s findings in a statement to the council. She began by stressing that “we have carried out a thorough and independent investigation over the past year into the alleged violations and the surrounding facts and circumstances… in connection with the protests that began there on 16 September 2022, especially with respect to women and children.”

With regards to the attitude of the Iranian government she said: “From the outset, we sought in good faith to engage with the Government of Iran. Regrettably, however, the Government did not grant the Mission access to the country, nor respond to calls for meetings, nor to the 21 detailed letters of inquiry, sent up to January 2024.”

She added: “Despite these challenges, the Mission ultimately collected and preserved over 27,000 evidence items. It conducted a total of 134 in-depth interviews with victims and witnesses, including 49 women, and 85 men… The Mission closely reviewed the Government of Iran’s official documents, including public statements of officials, alongside 41 reports of Iran’s High Council for Human Rights (received by other UN bodies).”

Ms. Hossein presented the Mission’s findings as follows: “The Mission found that State authorities in Iran were responsible for egregious human rights violations in connection with the protests that started on 16 September 2022. These include unlawful deaths, extra-judicial executions, unnecessary and disproportionate use of force, arbitrary arrests, torture and ill-treatment, rape and sexual violence, enforced disappearances and gender persecution. These acts were conducted in the context of a widespread and systematic attack against women and girls, and other persons expressing support for human rights. The Mission found that some of these serious violations of human rights thus rose to the level of crimes against humanity, including murder, torture, rape, and also gender persecution, intersecting with ethnicity and religion.”

As stated in the Mission’s report, “During the protests, the security forces used firearms, including assault rifles, as well as metal pellets and paintball guns, and AK47s, causing deaths and extensive injuries… resulting in credible figures of 551 deaths, among them at least 49 women and 68 children, in 26 out of the 31 provinces in Iran… On just one day, 30 September 2022, “Bloody Friday”, in Zahedan city, Sistan and Baluchestan province, credible information indicates that security forces killed 103 protesters and bystanders, mostly men and boys.”

As for the death of Jina Mahsa Amini, the 22-year-old Iranian-Kurdish woman whose death in custody of the “morality police” sparked the protests in September 2022, Ms. Hossein said: “Our investigation established that her death was unlawful and caused by physical violence in the custody of State authorities.”

One of the shocking findings of the Mission was the security forces of the Iranian regime “targeting their firearms towards vital body parts of protesters and bystanders, including their faces, heads, necks, torsos, and genital area.”

As stated in the FMMI report to the 55th session of the Human Rights Council, there were “mass arbitrary arrests of protesters” during the crackdowns, “including around 100 journalists who have been arrested for covering the protests, and lawyers, who have been summoned, arrested, convicted, suspended from the bar.”

“Detainees were often subjected to sexual and gender-based violence, including gang rape and rape with an object, as well as beatings, flogging, or electric shocks, in acts that constitute torture… Children were subjected to extrajudicial killings, torture, rape, and held in detention along with adults.”

Ms. Hossein added that “trials were marred by systematic violations of due process” and “at least nine young men were arbitrarily executed, following hasty and flawed proceedings.” She concluded by expressing that “without holding accountable the perpetrators of the violations in the context of the protests that started on 16 September 2022, the cycle of impunity cannot be broken.”

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