The United Nations’s Human Rights Council on Thursday voted to create a new fact-finding mission to investigate alleged human rights violations in Iran amid weeks of protests and Tehran’s brutal crackdown on the unrest.
The U.N. council had called a special session to discuss the “deteriorating human rights situation” in Iran, where citizens have been waging widespread protests against the government since 22-year-old Masha Amini was allegedly beaten to death by Iran’s “morality police” after being detained for violating Iran’s strict dress code.
Twenty-five countries voted to create the new mission, and 16 abstained. Just six countries voted against the move: China, Cuba, Pakistan, Venezuela, Armenia and Eritrea.
The new U.N. mission will probe alleged human rights violations in Iran surrounding the Iranian government’s harsh response to the protests, which started back in September.
U.S. Ambassador to the Human Rights Council Michele Taylor flouted U.N. rules to show photos of dead Iranian protesters during her speech at the special session, calling for investigation into the deaths.
“The names on display next to me and the photos behind me represent just a few of the lives — lives full of potential — that were taken simply for standing up for basic human rights. They are the reason we are here today,” Taylor said.
A man seated next to Taylor held up a black sign with white type displaying the names of the protesters, while two people behind the ambassador held up printed collages of the protesters’ photos.
“This historic movement was sparked by the inexcusable, unjustifiable death in custody of Mahsa Amini and has been met with brutal killings by security forces of hundreds of Iranians. Countless others have been subjected to sexual violence,” Taylor said.
“The people of Iran are demanding something so simple, something that most of us here take for granted: the opportunity to speak and to be heard,” the ambassador added.
Taylor also criticized Iran for detaining two reporters who she said were “integral” to breaking the news of Amini’s death.
“It is unconscionable that those women now face charges that carry the death penalty in Iran simply for exercising their freedom of expression,” the ambassador said.
The Human Rights Council’s president, Federico Villegas of Argentina, reiterated the rules about photo display before passing the mic on at the Geneva session.
“Let me remind the rules of this council to avoid presenting images, or any other manifestation, while we speak. Thank you,” Villegas said.
The Biden administration has responded to the repression in Iran with sanctions and condemnation against those responsible.
“The Iranian government needs to end its systemic persecution of women and allow peaceful protest. The United States will continue to voice our support for human rights in Iran and hold those who violate them to account,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement shortly after Amini’s death.
President Biden said last month that Iran’s government “has denied fundamental freedoms to its people and suppressed the aspirations of successive generations through intimidation, coercion, and violence.”