AP

UN office urges Iran to free detained peaceful protesters

Nov 15, 2022, 10:30 AM
people protest in iran...
Dozens of people stage a demonstration to protest the death of a 22-year-old woman under custody in Tehran Iran on September 21. (Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
(Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

GENEVA (AP) — The U.N. human rights office is calling on Iran’s government to immediately release thousands of people who have been detained for participating in peaceful protests, faulting its “increasing harshness” as Western countries seek to ratchet up scrutiny of Tehran’s crackdown against demonstrators.

Spokesman Jeremy Laurence of the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said it was calling for all charges to be dropped against the demonstrators and cautioned that Iran can only mete out the death penalty for the “most serious crimes” under international law — amid concerns that some protesters could be facing capital punishment.

“Instead of opening space for dialogue on legitimate grievances, the authorities are responding to unprecedented protests with increasing harshness,” Laurence said at a regular U.N. press briefing in Geneva.

He said at least 10 protesters had been charged with offenses that carry the death penalty — including one found guilty of either “waging war against God” or “corruption on earth” for allegedly damaging public property.

Separately, Germany and Iceland are leading a push led mostly by Western countries for the U.N.-backed Human Rights Council to create a special “fact-finding mission” — a team of independent rights experts — to look into alleged rights violations in the Islamic Republic linked to nationwide protests that erupted on Sept. 16.

Iranian women — and some men — have been protesting the government’s severe restrictions on their daily life since the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who had been arrested for allegedly violating the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code.

The council, which is made up of 47 member states and whose composition is tweaked every year, is set to hold a special session on Nov. 24 to debate the situation in Iran and ultimately vote on the proposal that includes the call for the fact-finding mission.

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UN office urges Iran to free detained peaceful protesters