On Wednesday, December 16, 2020, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted a resolution censuring the grave and systematic violation of human rights in Iran, marking the 67th time UN bodies have adopted resolutions condemning rights abuses in Iran. The resolution gained 82 affirmative votes, declaring the international community’s deep concerns about the human rights conditions in the country.
The latest condemnation by the UN’s highest human rights body indicates that other countries are following developments inside Iran and they are aware of the government’s atrocities against its citizens. This issue signals to the ayatollahs that contrary to previous years, they cannot do whatever they want against the people, Iran experts say. Furthermore, due to their fragile socioeconomic conditions, the world would not turn a blind eye to their crimes and would consider human rights conditions as a pivotal element in any talks.
The resolution condemns the “high frequency of the imposition and carrying-out of the death penalty” in Iran. The UNGA also mentions the Iranian government’s international obligations, including executions undertaken against persons on the basis of forced confessions.
Since the November 2019 anti-government protests, Iranian interrogators and judiciary officials have practiced extreme and inhuman torture on detainees, pushing them to confess to alleged crimes. According to former prisoners, several arrestees lost their lives under severe torture and other ill-treatment.
On September 2, 2020, Amnesty International provided damning information obtained through 60 interviews with released detainees of the November 2019 protests. They testified that interrogators and torturers committed horrible crimes including beating, flogging, sexual abuses, and mock executions to coerce protesters to make televised confessions.
Also, on December 3, 2019, Iranian Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli ordered the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting Organization (IRIB) to air forced ‘confessions’ of those arrested during the ‘unrest and riot.’ This order prompted criticism even inside the government.
Notably, judiciary officials file forced confessions as reliable evidence to sentence defendants to long-term prison and also the death penalty. Mostafa Salehi and Navid Afkari were hanged in August and September respectively based on torture-tainted admissions. They frequently rejected their words, announcing that their confessions were under torture. However, ‘judges’ gave no care and handed down their execution sentences.
The UNGA resolution also points out to death sentences issued and implemented for “crimes that do not qualify as the most serious crimes, including crimes that are overly broad or vaguely defined.” The UN considers these merciless executions a violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Tehran has sentenced the most number of minors to death globally. The UNGA announced its concerns over “the continued imposition of the death penalty against minors,” which is in violation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The Resolution also called on the religious dictatorship ruling Iran to release all political prisoners, prisoners of conscience, civil rights activists, and human rights defenders immediately and unconditionally. Currently, there are thousands of people in Iran’s prisons, who have been held due to their political thoughts or faith, according to human rights experts.
In November 2019, during the bloodiest suppression in the Islamic Republic’s history, authorities arrested over 12,000 peaceful protesters, in addition to murdering at least 1,500 citizens, including women and children. Up to now, Iran’s judiciary has yet to prosecute agents who used lethal force against unarmed demonstrators. Instead, under the leadership of Ebrahim Raisi, one of the known perpetrators of the mass killings of political prisoners in 1988, the judiciary has issued many death sentences against arrested protesters.
Through the 67th resolution condemning human rights violations in Iran, the UNGA also declared its concerns about the prevalence of Covid-19 in Iran’s prisons. Many reports show that the authorities have left prisoners without basic health and hygienic equipment. Sources from prisons also acknowledged that a number of prisoners have died of the novel coronavirus so far. However, the Prison Organization rejects the news and severely tries to cut off prisoners’ communication with the outside. The guards’ efforts well show the vile conditions of prisoners and the threats posed to their lives and health.
The Iranian opposition coalition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) welcomed the adoption of the 67th UN resolution, condemning the grave and systematic violation of human rights in Iran. NCRI President-elect Maryam Rajavi said, “the main perpetrators of the atrocities mentioned in this resolution are those who have been continuously involved in crimes against humanity during that past four decades, particularly the massacre of political prisoners in 1988, the brutal suppression of the November 2019 uprising that leftover 1,500 protesters killed, and 12,000 arrested.”
“Clerical regime leaders must face justice for four decades of crimes against humanity, putting an end to their impunity,” she said, adding, “where the religious fascism ruling Iran does not pay the slightest attention to the UN General Assembly resolutions, it is time for the Iranian regime’s human rights dossier to be referred to the UN Security Council and the regime’s leaders to be held accountable for four decades of crimes against humanity.”