This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
The UN’s human rights chief has accused Iranian security forces of using “severe violence” against protesters and “shooting to kill” during last month’s demonstrations against a sharp hike in gas prices.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said on December 6 that she is alarmed at the continuing lack of transparency about casualties and the treatment of thousands of detainees in the wake of the recent protests.
“Verified video footage indicates severe violence was used against protesters, including armed members of security forces shooting from the roof of a Justice Department building in one city, and from helicopters in another,” Bachelet said.
“We have also received footage which appears to show security forces shooting unarmed demonstrators from behind while they were running away and shooting others directly in the face and vital organs — in other words shooting to kill.
“These are clear violations of international norms and standards on the use of force, and serious violations of human rights.”
Protests erupted on November 15 after the government announced a fuel price hike of up to 200 percent but were quickly stifled by security forces. A week-long, near-total Internet blackout was also imposed.
Information has trickled out of Iran during and after the protests, with the U.S. State Department estimating that more than 1,000 people may have died during the unrest.
There has been no widely accepted claim matching that estimate.
Amnesty International said on December 2 that at least 208 people are believed to have been killed during the crackdown.
Iranian authorities have yet to publish any definitive official death toll for the unrest, which saw protesters attack police stations, torch petrol pumps, and loot shops.
Bachelet called for “greater transparency” from Iranian officials with regard to the protests, including giving those detained access to due process and launching “prompt, independent, and impartial investigations into all violations that have taken place, including the killing of protesters and reported deaths and ill-treatment in custody.
“All in all, the picture now emerging from Iran is extremely disturbing,” Bachelet said.