Tehran, Iran – Roughly one year after protests over economic hardship broke out across Iran, officials have condemned a United Nations resolution that among other things calls for upholding human rights of people involved in the protests.
Last week, the third committee of the UN General Assembly, which deals with human rights, adopted a resolution put forward by Canada.
The resolution welcomed some progress and continued efforts by Iranian authorities.
But it also expressed “serious concern” about executions for drug-related crimes and against minors, and urged Iran to ensure humane treatment of prisoners and cease “widespread and systematic use of arbitrary arrests and detention”.
The resolution further called for the release of prisoners arrested during the protests of November 2019 and said Iran should address the “poor conditions of its prisons”.
In response, Iran earlier this week summoned the Italian ambassador to Tehran, who represents Canadian interests in the absence of formal diplomatic relations between the two countries.
The Iranian foreign ministry told the ambassador that Canada continues to refuse to offer consular services to 400,000 Iranians in the country and has become a “safe haven for the world’s economic offenders and financial criminals”.
A number of Iranians wanted for economic corruption in Iran have fled to Canada and the country refuses to extradite them.
Chief among them is Mahmoud Reza Khavari, the former CEO of state-run Bank Melli Iran, who was the central figure in a $2.6bn embezzlement case, the largest in Iran’s history.
‘No legal credibility’
The secretary of the human rights committee of the Iranian judiciary also said the resolution has no “legal credibility” as its sponsors have a history of abusing human rights in their own countries and those of other nations such as Palestine and Yemen.
On Monday, Ali Bagheri-Kani called Canada a “systematic violator of human rights” as it suppresses its native people, violently treats women and supports “terrorist” groups.
He also slammed the resolution and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, for refusing to mention the impact of the United States’ unilateral economic sanctions on the Iranian people.
In May 2018, the US reneged on a landmark nuclear deal signed between Iran and world powers and imposed harsh sanctions that have only escalated since. Iran has said that – especially during the COVID-19 pandemic – the sanctions amount to “economic and medical terrorism”.
In a statement late on Wednesday, the Iranian foreign ministry spokesman also condemned the resolution, saying it is “unacceptable” since it is based on fabricated reports.
“It is unfortunate that a number of countries, including Canada, employ human rights and its international mechanisms as tools to advance their own political agendas,” Saeed Khatibzadeh said.
Khatibzadeh added that Iran sees the resolution as having no legal standing, and called on Canada to stop supporting US sanctions and providing a safe haven for Iranian criminals.
Meanwhile, the US Mission to the UN, a sponsor of the human rights resolution on Iran, has welcomed the resolution, saying it remains “deeply concerned” with the human rights situation in Iran.
The political back and forth comes one year after protests broke in dozens of cities across Iran in mid-November 2019 after a sudden increase in petrol prices.
In a surprise overnight move, the government of President Hassan Rouhani announced petrol would be rationed and prices would be up to tripled.
The move was implemented amid high inflation and unemployment as a result of a combination of economic mismanagement and US sanctions.
The government said the move was aimed at improving conditions for the poorest as revenues would be redistributed among low-income families. But the sudden price rise seemed to act as an immediate spark as people took to the streets and violence ensued shortly after.
Authorities cracked down on protesters as internet access was almost entirely shut down for civilians and businesses alike for close to a week by the order of the Supreme Council of National Security.
Amnesty International said at the time it had obtained evidence showing at least 304 people, including children, were killed during the protests and thousands were arrested.
Roughly eight months after the protests, the head of the national security commission of the Iranian parliament, Mojtaba Zonnour, said 230 people were confirmed killed. That included six official security officers, he said.
While a number of government officials acknowledged that some of the protesters had legitimate requests in the backdrop of declining quality of life, all authorities traced the hand of foreign influence and “mercenaries” in the protests.
They said a significant number of protesters were killed with weapons that are not standard issue for security officers.