The UN's Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has said that more than 300 people have been killed in protests which erupted in September in Iran over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody. Those killed include at least 40 children.
OHCHR spokesperson Jeremy Laurence told a press conference in Geneva that UN human rights chief Volker Turk believes that, "The rising number of deaths from protests in Iran, including those of two children at the weekend, and the hardening of the response by security forces, underline the critical situation in the country."
Hence, he added, "We urgently ask the [Iranian] authorities to respond to citizens' requests for equality, dignity and rights, instead of using useless or disproportionate force to suppress demonstrations. The lack of accountability for egregious human rights violations in Iran continues and contributes to the growing complaints."
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Anti-regime protests have swept Iran following Amini's death while in the custody of the so-called "morality police".
According to the UN spokesperson, the demonstrators were killed in 25 of Iran's 31 provinces, including more than 100 people killed in the provinces of Sistan and Baluchistan. He noted that the Iranian authorities have also reported the killing of members of its own security forces.
Thousands of peaceful protesters have been arrested, including women, children, lawyers, activists and journalists, according to UN human rights experts. Moreover, the Iranian judiciary has so far issued six death sentences in connection with the demonstrations.
Volker Turk has called for the release of "all those detained on the basis of exercising their rights, including the right to peaceful assembly, and for the charges against them to be dropped." Iran should also "immediately suspend" the death sentences, he added.
Spokesperson Laurence said that OHCHR is particularly concerned about the increase in repression in Iranian Kurdish cities, where more than 40 people have been killed over the past week. "We received information that security forces responded forcefully to protests in several mainly Kurdish towns, including Jamrud and Saqqez."
The UN described as "very disturbing" the refusal of the Iranian authorities to hand over the bodies of protesters to their families unless they agree not to speak to the media or agree to provide a false version of the cause of death.