Severe Human Rights Concerns Emerging from Islamic Republic of Iran5 min read

-Saharsh Panjwani

Background

The present strikes are part of a much bigger cause of the 2018-2019 Iranian General Strikes and Protests which are a public and vocal outcry against the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its current Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. The incident began to crop up in the later hours of 15th November 2019 and spread like what can only be compared to wildfire, a monstrous 21 cities were affected in a matter of hours. It was only a matter of time that the news became an international spectacle and the attention of the United Nations as well.

Statements arrived an early as 19th November from the Spokesperson for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Rupert Colville said that –

“We are deeply concerned by reported violations of international norms and standards on the use of force, including the firing of live ammunition, against demonstrators in Iran”, Mr. Colville said. “It would suggest that it is not simply the immediate trigger to the protest which was a rise in fuel prices, but…much deeper-seated problems persisting in the country.”

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More than 1,000 protesters have also been arrested, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights official added, although details were difficult to verify as OHCHR does not have an office in the country.

“Overall, protests have reportedly been held in 40 or more towns and cities across the country, but again details have been hard to verify because of the shutdown of the internet late on Saturday”, Mr. Colville explained.

Current Issue

On the stroke of midnight on 15th November 2019, there was an announcement by the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to increase the price of petrol. The start of the Iranian weekend, to unveil the move: a 50% increase on the price of the first 60 litres of petrol purchased each month, and a 300% increase on purchases above 60 litres. But it may have been surprised by the intensity of the protests that followed. This opened up the floodgates where a series of protests including innocent everyday civilians joined the protests against the government of Iran.

What followed can only be described as heinous and inhumane repression, Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, and President Hassan Rouhani ordered deadly weapons be used against the Iranians protesting the blatant rise in gasoline prices. Above all government entities, it is the “Supreme National Security Council” that makes decisions on how to deal with such demonstrations and deal with the political crisis. The Council is presided by the president. Iran’s constitution prescribes that all decisions taken by the Council should be approved by Khamenei. 

The BBC has reported that there is a huge variance in the number of people killed. Unofficial reports from various sources say that from 15 to 19 November, about 200 people were killed and 3,000 injured. UN Human Rights said “dozens of people may have been killed” while Amnesty International places the number at “at least 106”. Iranian authorities say “only a few people have been killed”.

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Question in Law

Right to Information (Internet Shutdown) – With the Internet immersing in all walks of our daily lives a deliberate and targeted interruption in it shall and must constitute a severe violation of individual rights. The government of the Islamic Republic of Iran pulled the plug on the internet access points to handicap the communication of the protestors during the rallies against the government of Iran. It was a clear political move by Iran and a violation of fundamental freedoms and essential services.

Excessive Force – In the past two weeks, the global media has been seen several verified videos of armed forces using more than the proportional force on silent and peaceful protestors. Ms. Bachelet of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights stated “These are clear violations of international norms and standards on the use of force, and serious violations of human rights”, underscored the human rights chief. There are conflicting reports about whether or not there were one or more armed people among the protestors,” Ms. Bachelet said. “But this does not in any way justify such an indiscriminate, horrifying and deadly reaction by the security forces.”

The Iranian government has employed a shooting to kill strategy to control the protests, this comes through as a blunt and heinous human rights violation.

Forced Confessions and Treatment of Detainees – The authorities in the Islamic Republic of Iran have made mockery pillars of criminal law such as due process and fair trials. Most of the arrested protestors have had their right to habeas corpus snatched, their legal representatives have not been allowed to see their clients. The harsh treatment even extends to the lack of medical facilities for many of the injured detainees.

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Conclusion

The situation in Iran over the past coupled of the year has been on the decline however the recent incidents owing to the price hike on the 15th of November have pushed the nation into a state of complete stability. I think that there must be external intervention by the Arab League or by the United Nations to stop Iran from going into a full-fledged civil war as seen with many Arab nations in the years gone by. However, the biggest indicator of the severity of the situation in Iran is the fact that even the all controversial President of the US Mr. Donald Trump has called for immediate action.

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