The UN human rights chief says the Iranian government has “weaponized” criminal proceedings and the death penalty to “punish” protesters and “strike fear” into the population in an effort to suppress dissent.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk made the comments in a statement on January 10 amid a brutal state crackdown on nearly four months of nationwide demonstrations against Iran’s clerical establishment.
Security forces have killed hundreds of protesters, including dozens of children, and detained thousands.
Türk said the execution of four young men engaged in demonstrations over the past month following “expedited trials that did not meet the minimum guarantees of fair trial and due process” violated international human rights law.
Such executions are “tantamount to arbitrary deprivation of life, the UN official said, adding, “The weaponization of criminal procedures to punish people for exercising their basic rights – such as those participating in or organizing demonstrations - amounts to state sanctioned killing.”
“The Government of Iran would better serve its interests and those of its people by listening to their grievances, and by undertaking the legal and policy reforms necessary to ensure respect for diversity of opinion, the rights to freedom of expression and assembly, and the full respect and protection of the rights of women in all areas of life,” he continued.
The Islamic Republic hanged two young men on January 7 for allegedly killing a member of the security forces during nationwide protests, triggering international condemnation. Two other men were hanged in December after being convicted of separate attacks on security forces.
At least 17 people have been handed capital punishment in connection with the ongoing protests, and the UN Human Rights office said it had received information that two executions are imminent.
On January 9, the secretary-general of the European External Action Service (EEAS) summoned Iran's ambassador to the bloc to “reiterate the European Union’s strong appalment” over the executions, according to a statement.
Stefano Sannino called on the Iranian authorities to “immediately stop the strongly condemnable practice of imposing and carrying out death sentences against protesters, to annul without delay the recent death penalty sentences that were already pronounced in the context of the ongoing protests and to provide due process to all detainees.”
Meanwhile a German government spokesperson told a regular news conference that Berlin will work with its international partners to “increase the pressure further on the Iranian regime.”
A spokesperson for Germany’s Foreign Ministry said the goal was to agree a fourth package of sanctions with other EU member states in response to the crackdown on protests.