Iran urged to respect protestors' rights, end Internet crackdown
(5 months ago)
Geneva, Jan 5 : UN experts have urged Iranian authorities to respect the rights of protestors and voiced concern over Tehran's restriction of social messaging services.
The joint statement by four Special Rapporteurs -- expert advisers to the UN who work on a voluntary basis -- issued on Friday by the UN agency for human rights came eight days after anti-government protests broke out in Iran over corruption, unemployment and price rise, CNN reported.
At least 21 people were killed and 450 arrested in the protests, many in clashes with security forces trying to quell the rallies.
The protests, the most powerful challenge to the regime in years, fizzled on Thursday after a claim by Revolutionary Guards commander Mohammad Ali Jafari that the unrest was "officially over".
"We are very disturbed by the way the authorities have responded to the protests," the four Special Rapporteurs said in their statement, released by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
"We are also very concerned at reports that the government has blocked the Internet on mobile networks and that social media services like Instagram and messaging services like Telegram were shut down in an attempt to quell the protests," the statement said.
"In some regions, Internet access was blocked altogether. Communication blackouts constitute a serious violation of fundamental rights."
The experts added that the lack of measures to address the causes of the unrest was "disturbing".
"The government's instruction to the Revolutionary Guards to hit hard against the protesters and the judiciary's threats of harsh punishment, are unacceptable.
"We urge the authorities to exercise restraint and respond proportionately in their efforts to control the protests, to limit the use of force to a strict minimum and to fully respect the human rights of the protesters, including their rights to life, freedom of expression and peaceful assembly," the statement said.
The UN experts said they shared the concerns of Iranian civil society groups for those arrested.
The protests began just over a week ago over Iran's stagnant economy and the rising cost of living and developed into a broader outcry against the government.
The UN Security Council was expected convene a meeting on the situation in Iran later in the day.
In Tehran, firebrand cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami delivered a fiery sermon at Friday prayers in which he accused the US and Israel of fomenting protest.
Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli claimed that not more than 42,000 people had taken part in the anti-government protests since December 28, according to the semi-official Iranian Student News Agency.
"That isn't a high number of people, Fazli said, adding that protests were "normal occurrences and happen in all countries."