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The Iranian government “bears responsibility” for the physical violence that led to the death of Mahsa Amini, the 22-year-old Iranian-Kurdish woman who died in police custody in 2022, and for the brutal crackdown on largely peaceful street protests that followed, a report by a United Nations fact-finding mission says.

The report, issued on March 8 by the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Islamic Republic of Iran, said the mission “has established the existence of evidence of trauma to Ms. Amini’s body, inflicted while in the custody of the morality police.”

It said the mission found the “physical violence in custody led to Ms. Amini’s unlawful death…. On that basis, the state bears responsibility for her unlawful death.”

Amini was arrested in Tehran on September 13, 2022, while visiting the Iranian capital with her family. She was detained by Iran’s so-called “morality police” for allegedly improperly wearing her hijab, or hair-covering head scarf. Within hours of her detention, she was hospitalized in a coma and died on September 16.

Her family has denied that Amini suffered from a preexisting health condition that may have contributed to her death, as claimed by the Iranian authorities, and her father has cited eyewitnesses as saying she was beaten while en route to a detention facility.

The fact-finding report said the action “emphasizes the arbitrary character of Ms. Amini’s arrest and detention, which were based on laws and policies governing the mandatory hijab, which fundamentally discriminate against women and girls and are not permissible under international human rights law.”

“Those laws and policies violate the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of religion or belief, and the autonomy of women and girls. Ms. Amini’s arrest and detention, preceding her death in custody, constituted a violation of her right to liberty of person,” it said.

The New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran hailed the findings and said they represented clear signs of “crimes against humanity.”

“The Islamic republic’s violent repression of peaceful dissent and severe discrimination against women and girls in Iran has been confirmed as constituting nothing short of crimes against humanity,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the center.

“The government’s brutal crackdown on the Women, Life, Freedom protests has seen a litany of atrocities that include extrajudicial killings, torture, and rape. These violations disproportionately affect the most vulnerable in society, women, children, and minority groups,” he added.

The report also said the Iranian government failed to “comply with its duty” to investigate the woman’s death promptly.

“Most notably, judicial harassment and intimidation were aimed at her family in order to silence them and preempt them from seeking legal redress. Some family members faced arbitrary arrest, while the family’s lawyer, Saleh Nikbaht, and three journalists, Niloofar Hamedi, Elahe Mohammadi, and Nazila Maroufian, who reported on Ms. Amini’s death were arrested, prosecuted, and sentenced to imprisonment,” it added.

Amini’s death sparked mass protests, beginning in her home town of Saghez, then spreading around the country, and ultimately posed one of the biggest threats to Iran’s clerical establishment since the foundation of the Islamic republic in 1979. At least 500 people were reported killed in the government’s crackdown on demonstrators.

The UN report said “violations and crimes” under international law committed in the context of the Women, Life, Freedom protests include “extrajudicial and unlawful killings and murder, unnecessary and disproportionate use of force, arbitrary deprivation of liberty, torture, rape, enforced disappearances, and gender persecution.

“The violent repression of peaceful protests and pervasive institutional discrimination against women and girls has led to serious human rights violations by the government of Iran, many amounting to crimes against humanity,” the report said.

The UN mission acknowledged that some state security forces were killed and injured during the demonstrations, but said it found that the majority of protests were peaceful.

The mission stems from the UN Human Rights Council’s mandate to the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Islamic Republic of Iran on November 24, 2022, to investigate alleged human rights violations in Iran related to the protests that followed Amini’s death.


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