The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on Wednesday urged the Iranian authorities “to handle the wave of protests that have taken place around the country with great care so as not to further inflame violence and unrest,” and to investigate all deaths and serious injuries that have occurred so far.
Thousands of Iranians have been protesting across the country against government corruption, increasing unemployment, and the economic slowdown while the government has decided to deal with the protesters with an iron fist.
Reports suggest that at least 20 people have been killed in scuffles with the security forces that have warned people to stay peaceful.
“I am deeply disturbed by reports that more than 20 people, including an 11-year-old boy, have died and hundreds have been arrested during the recent wave of protests in Iran,” Zeid said.
“The Iranian authorities must respect the rights of all demonstrators and detainees, including their right to life, and guarantee their safety and security. There must be thorough, independent and impartial investigations of all acts of violence that have taken place – and a concerted effort by the authorities to ensure that all security forces respond in a manner that is proportionate and strictly necessary, and fully in line with international law.”
The UN human rights chief stressed that Iranian citizens who take to the streets to express their discontent have a right to be heard, and that the issues they raise should be resolved through dialogue, with full respect for freedom of expression and the right to peaceful assembly.
“It is incumbent on the authorities that their actions do not provoke a downward spiral of violence, as occurred in 2009,” he warned. “The authorities must take all steps to ensure that this does not happen again.”
The High Commissioner urged the authorities to release from detention any protestors who have been arbitrarily deprived of their liberty, or penalised in any way, for expressing their views and protesting in a peaceful manner. “Peaceful protests must not be criminalised,” he said. “They are a legitimate part of the democratic process.”