Iran’s “disproportionate” use of force in quashing protests that have shaken the country since September must end, the UN rights chief said on Thursday amid an intensifying crackdown in Kurdish areas in recent days.
UN rights council members are meeting in Geneva to consider a special probe into Iran’s suppression of the mass protests, which broke out after the death in custody of 22-year old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini on September 16.
The protests have particularly focused on women’s rights - Amini was detained by morality police for attire deemed inappropriate under Iran’s dress code - but have also called for the fall of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The unrest has posed one of the boldest challenges to Iran’s clerical ruling elite since it came to power in the 1979 Iranian Revolution, though authorities have crushed previous rounds of major protests.
Rights chief Volker Turk said Iran faced a “full fledged human rights crisis” with 14,000 people arrested including children as Germany and Iceland pushed for an investigative mission to the country.
While the push in Geneva for an Iran probe is backed by a broad group of countries, the vote later on Thursday may prove a test of Western clout within the divided human rights council after a thwarted attempt to scrutinize China last month.
Diplomats said the vote could be tight. Turk said Iran had not responded to a request he had made to visit the country.
The UN rights monitor said this week that at least 300 people had been killed in the protests since September and noted reports of at least 40 killed in Kurdish areas since last week.
Iran has given no death toll for protesters, but a deputy foreign minister, Ali Bagheri Kani, said on Thursday that around 50 police had died and hundreds been injured in the unrest - the first official figure for deaths among security forces.
Bagheri, who is also Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, did not say whether it included members of other security forces besides the police. Officials have announced the deaths of some Bassij and Revolutionary Guards members in the unrest.
State media had reported last month that 46 security forces members have been killed, but without citing any official.
Tehran’s representative at the Geneva talks Khadijeh Karimi accused Western states of using the rights council to target Iran, a move she called “appalling and disgraceful.”