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UN rights council votes to set up probe into Iran protests

The UN's top rights body has agreed to begin an independent investigation into Iran's crackdown
A demonstrator holds a picture Mahsa Amini as people march during a protest in Los Angeles, California, on 1 October 2022.
A demonstrator holds a picture of Mahsa Amini as people march during a protest in Los Angeles, California, on 1 October 2022 (AFP)

The UN's top human rights body voted on Thursday to set up an independent investigation into Iran's deadly repression of protests following the death of Mahsa Amini.

The motion presented to the UN Human Rights Council passed with 25 in favour, six against and 16 abstentions.

Volker Turk, commissioner of the UNHCR, had earlier demanded Iran end its "disproportionate" use of force in quashing protests that erupted after the death in custody of Amini, a 22-year old Kurdish woman, on 16 September.

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Iran's representative at the UN meeting, Khadijeh Karimi, however, accused western states of using the rights body to target Iran, a move she called "appalling and disgraceful".

The protests have particularly focused on women's rights, as Amini was detained by Iran's "morality police" for attire deemed inappropriate under Iran's Islamic dress code, but protests have also called for the downfall of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Iran has given no death toll for protesters killed in the crackdown, but a deputy foreign minister, Ali Bagheri Kani, said on Thursday that around 50 police had died and hundreds had been injured in the unrest - the first official figure for deaths among security forces.

Human rights groups say more than 200 people have been killed nationwide, including teenage girls whose deaths have become a rallying cry for more demonstrations demanding the downfall of the Islamic Republic.

Rights groups welcomed the news of the vote on Thursday, with the head of Amnesty International, Agnes Callamard, saying it would send a "clear message" to Iranian authorities that "they can no longer commit crimes under international law without fear of consequences".

"Today marks a significant first step towards justice and accountability for the innocent women and girls and all civilians fighting for their basic human rights in Iran," Yasmine Chubin, legal advocacy director of the Clooney Foundation for Justice's docket initiative, told Middle East Eye.

"These investigations will allow evidence to be collected, analysed, and preserved and enable prosecutions of the responsible perpetrators," Chubin said.

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