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UN General Assembly adopts Iran human rights resolution on the anniversary of 2019 protests

It’s one year after widespread protests in Iran demanded the removal of the current regime. The third committee of the UN General Assembly has adopted a resolution that expresses “serious concern” regarding the employment of human rights in Iran.

The resolution – approved by a recorded vote of 79 in favour to 32 against – expressed particular concern about the frequency of the use of capital punishment, torture, and the systematic and widespread use of arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances.

The resolution also urged Iran to address the poor conditions of prisons; release women human rights defenders imprisoned for exercising their rights; end rights violations against persons belonging to ethnic, linguistic or other minorities; and ensure free presidential elections in 2021, in compliance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Despite the committee’s commendation of Iran’s legislative progress, grave concern was expressed with regard to the repressive measures taken against peaceful protesters in the November 2019 uprising, where at least 1,500 were killed.

The impunity enjoyed by many Iranian officials was also named as a potential contributor to the nation’s poor human rights record, with the representative of the United States saying that:

“Government institutions continue to subject Iranians to a variety of abuses with no accountability”

This impunity is exemplified by Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has remained the country’s unelected and unaccountable head of state since he came to power in 1989.

The representative for Canada, the country presenting the draft motion, “expressed grave concern at unprecedented repressive measures taken against peaceful protesters in November 2019” and stated that:

“Perpetrators must be held accountable for their crimes, including the execution of thousands of political prisoners… the harassment, intimidation, arrest and torture of journalists and human rights activists, and the targeting of female human rights advocates”

The representative of the United Kingdom was also vocal in his support of the resolution, calling on the Iranian Government to:

“improve its poor human rights record” and “fully comply with its international human rights obligations.”

Despite this, Iran’s representative described its firm commitment to human rights as “deeply rooted in religious teaching” and “indispensable for ensuring national security”. He continued by accusing sponsors of tabling a “politically motivated draft” and categorically rejected the contents of the resolution.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry also condemned the resolution, saying it was “unacceptable and lacked credibility”, with Foreign Ministry spokesman, Saeed Khatibzadeh, claiming the resolution was a repetition of claims based on “unreal and fabricated reports.”

Khatibzadeh continued, saying that sponsors of the resolution were:

“abusing lofty human rights concepts and values in order to achieve short-sighted political objectives, is doomed and lacks any legal credibility and effect.”

However, Iranian authorities’ recent re-arrest of freed political prisoners and PMOI members on the anniversary of the 2019 protests, fearful of renewed unrest, suggests that the “significant progress” outlined in the Iranian representative’s statement has not materialised.

The Iranian judiciary’s continued prosecution of human rights defenders for reporting abuse in detention; bringing charges against two imprisoned activists who had published letters detailing their mistreatment, further signifies the inadequacy of Iranian legislative changes, the regime’s commitment to repression, and its blatant disregard for human rights.

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