FILE PHOTO: Human Rights Council, at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

By Natasha Phillips

The United Nations Human Rights Council will hold a special session on Nov. 24 to address “the deteriorating human rights situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran,” according to a council press release. The meeting is the first of its kind on Iran.

Special sessions at the UN are held to discuss important topics. They are considered high-level events, and involve heads of state and government as well as cabinet ministers. Proposed sessions can only be approved if they have the support of one-third of the 47 members of the council.

The decision to hold the meeting comes after a Nov. 11 request by Germany and Iceland. The resolution has been supported by 44 member states so far, as well as 27 supporter states including Australia, Canada and New Zealand. The list of signatories remains open until the session takes place, enabling additional states to support it in the days leading up to the meeting.

The meeting comes after an Oct. 27 briefing by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Islamic Republic of Iran, Javaid Rehman at the UN headquarters that addressed human rights violations in the country during the recent protests.

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Demonstrations erupted in mid-September in Iran after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while she was in the custody of the country’s morality police. The protests, which have now gone on for more than 60 days, have turned into a countrywide call for regime change, led by women, men, and children; ethnic and religious minorities; and oil and factory workers.

During the 30-minute briefing on Oct. 27, Rehman said Amini was “a victim of state brutality and state repression,” and that protesters were “seeking justice. They are seeking accountability.” Rehman confirmed that the UN had received several reports of women and children killed by state authorities in Iran and that the international community had a responsibility to address allegations of human rights violations by Iran’s regime.

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Responding to the request for the special session in a Nov. 10 phone call with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Tehran warned the UN that holding the session would amount to a “political move” which would negatively impact Iran’s relationship with the West.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian told Guterres that the meeting would be held by Western governments “who propagate violence and terror.” Non-Western member states who supported the meeting included Japan and the Republic of Korea.

Amirabdollahian added that Iran was a “true defender of human rights and has shown deep restraint during recent riots.”

As of Nov. 14, an estimated 344 people — including 52 children — have been killed by the Iranian security forces in a brutal crackdown on protesters and bystanders, according to the Iran-based non-governmental organization (NGO) Human Rights Activists In Iran (HRA). The NGO said that an additional 15,820 people had been arrested, and of those at least 1,000 had been indicted for taking part in the protests.

Iran’s government has begun to sentence protesters to death in recent days. The UN on Nov. 11 called on the Islamic Republic to stop indicting people with charges punishable by death for taking part in peaceful demonstrations. .

“We urge Iranian authorities to stop using the death penalty as a tool to squash protests and reiterate our call to immediately release all protesters who have been arbitrarily deprived of their liberty for the sole reason of exercising their legitimate rights to freedom of opinion and expression, association and peaceful assembly and for their actions to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms through peaceful means,” the UN said in a statement.

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