Iran: UN rights chief shocked by deadly violence
30 December 2009 – Expressing her shock at the recent uptick in deadly violence in Iran, the top United Nations human rights official today called on the nation’s Government to rein in its security forces.
High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay noted that while the exact circumstances that led to at least seven people being killed and many others injured both during and after the Ashoura religious commemoration on Sunday are still unclear, “the information available once again suggests excessive acts of violence by security forces and the paramilitary Basij militia.”
It is the Iranian Government’s duty to ensure that violence does not escalate, she said.
Ms. Pillay also voiced concern about continuing reports of arrests of political activists, journalists, human rights defenders and other members of civil society.
“People have a right to express their feelings and to hold peaceful protests, without being beaten, clubbed and thrown into jail,” she emphasized.
Those who have been detained – for whatever reason – must be accorded due process in line with international rights standards, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the High Commissioner said.
Iran is a party to that treaty, which bans arbitrary arrest and detention and ensures the freedom of expression and the right to peaceful assembly.
Following the reports of use of excessive force and violence on the heels of contested Iranian presidential polls in June, Ms. Pillay expressed her concern over the legal basis of the arrests that were made at the time, especially of human rights defenders and political activists.
Media reports said that hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets, with Mir Hossein Mousavi saying that he believed the vote was fixed in favour of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, while the incumbent said the vote was fair.
The High Commissioner also voiced concern over reported violence by members of the Basij militia, which could be in violation of international and Iranian national law.
“It is the responsibility of the government to ensure that militia members and regular law enforcement agencies do not resort to illegal acts of violence,” she said. “If they are perceived to be acting outside the law, it could provoke a serious deterioration in the security situation, which would be a great tragedy and is in nobody’s interests.”
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