WomenNC's Interview with Beth Dehghan - Gender Equality Activist, WomenNC Founder and Advisory Board Member
Q- WomenNC is a an accredited NGO who is eligible to participate in the United Nations official meeting in Geneva, Vienna, and in New York City. This was the first time that WomenNC delegates participated in the official meeting of the 53th session of the Human Rights Council on July 5th, 2023. Could you give us an overview about this meeting?
A- WomenNC delegates participated in 53rd session of the human rights council in Geneva, Switzerland to hear the presentation of first oral report of the Fact Finding Mission on the situation of human rights in Iran, which began on last September. Several NGO delegates from different countries were present in addition to a couple of NGOs from Inside Iran and WomenNC from the United States. WomenNC delegates were also approved by the council for submission of an oral presentation.
Q-Why did the UN Human Rights Council establish the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Islamic Republic of Iran (“FFMI”)?
A- Iranian and international NGOs, UN human rights experts, and other stakeholders had been calling for an international independent fact-finding mission to document human rights violations related to the protests sparked on September 16th 2022, the day of the death of Jina Mahsa Amini while in police custody, following her arrest for wearing her hijab “improperly.” The protests quickly expanded throughout the country, taking place in over 150 cities and 140 universities in all 31 provinces of Iran, and were systematically met with State violence and repression. Civil society and OHCHR received numerous reports of law enforcement’s unnecessary, disproportionate and lethal use of force and the widespread use of live ammunition, birdshot, and other metal pellets, teargas, and batons by security forces against peaceful protesters and bystanders, including children, who posed no threat to life. As of February 2023, over 480 individuals, including at least 64 children, were reportedly killed during protests. Minority regions were and continue to be disproportionately affected, especially in terms of casualties.More than 19,000 civilians have reportedly been arrested and detained since September 2022 without due process guarantees and have been regularly subjected to torture and other ill-treatment, including forced confessions, some of them broadcasted on state media. Alleged protesters have been executed following fast-track legal proceedings that violate fair trial standards.
Q- What were the highlights of the FFMI oral report?
A- The Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Islamic Republic of Iran was deeply alarmed at the continuing executions of protesters pending investigations of alleged human rights violations.
The executions of Majid Kazemi, Saleh Mirhashemi and Saeed Yaghoubi were profoundly concerning in view of the reported involvement of these individuals in the protests that commenced in Iran on September 16th 2022, and allegations of having been convicted and sentenced through confessions obtained under torture.
The Fact-Finding Mission, mandated to investigate all alleged human rights violations relating to the protests, had earlier sought information in relation to the imposition of the death penalty upon protesters.
The Fact-Finding Mission reminds all State authorities and individuals involved in this process that any execution following a fair trial violation would amount to arbitrary deprivation of life and a violation of international law.
Shaheen Sardar Ali, Member of the Iran Fact-Finding Mission (FFM): “Since November 2022, at least 26 individuals have reportedly been sentenced to death in connection with the protests, and dozens more have been charged with office offenses carrying the death penalty. Seven men have already been executed following these proceedings marred by serious allegations of fair trial violations, including confessions extracted under torture.”
Q- How have the countries received the FFMI report?
A- The countries' delegates shared their thoughts and feedback with the audience. United Sates Ambassador Michele Tylor delivered a very strong statement supporting the FFMI’s initiatives along with Canada, EU countries, and many more. On the other hand, some countries such as China, Russia and Venezuela took an adverse position trying to dilute the FFMI ‘s report in favor of the Iranian regime delegate who claimed FFMI is a political apparatus rather than a human rights support group for the Human Rights Council.
Q- Did you have the opportunity to talk with the FFMI members?
A- Yes, we met the Sara Hossain, Chair of the Iran Fact-Finding Mission. Shaheen Sardar Ali, and Viviana Krsticevic, Members of the Iran Fact-Finding Mission to express our gratitude for their work. Sara Hossein expressed her interest to remain in communication with me to receive more information on situation of youth and women in Iran.