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BRIEFING NOTES – (1) Iran; (2) Algeria; (3) Montenegro

Press Release – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville Location: Geneva Date: 5 March 2021 Subject: (1) Iran (2) Algeria (3) Montenegro 1) Iran In Iran, we condemn use of force violations in recent weeks by the Islamic Revolutionary …

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville

Location: Geneva

Date: 5 March 2021

Subject: (1) Iran

(2) Algeria

(3) Montenegro

1) Iran

In Iran, we condemn use of force violations in recent weeks by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and state security forces against unarmed fuel couriers and protesters belonging to the Baluch minority, which has reportedly led to the killing of at least 12 individuals, including at least two minors.

The series of violent events and unrest began on 22 February, when Revolutionary Guards are alleged to have shot and killed at least 10 fuel couriers, known as sookhtbar, in Sistan and Baluchistan Province at the border with Pakistan, after a two-day stand-off triggered by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps blocking the road to the city of Saravan.

The killings triggered demonstrations in several cities across the province, during which the IRGC and security forces fired lethal ammunition at protesters and bystanders, leading to the killing of at least two more people and serious injuries to several dozen others. Local authorities have reported that one policeman has also died during the protests in the city of Korin.

According to some estimates, which we are unable to confirm, as many as 23 people may have been killed in all. Precise verification of the death toll has been made more difficult following disruptions of local mobile data networks. We are deeply concerned by the widespread shutdown of the internet across several cities in Sistan and Baluchestan Province, with the apparent purpose of preventing access to information about what is happening there. Blanket internet shutdowns violate the principles of necessity and proportionality applicable to restrictions of freedom of expression and constitute a violation of international human rights law. We call on the authorities to immediately restore internet access in areas that remain disconnected.

We deplore the systematic intentional use of lethal force by Iranian border officials, especially against border couriers from the Kurdish and Baluch minorities, and call for immediate measures to end the impunity that perpetuates this practice. During 2020, a total of 59 Kurdish couriers were reported to have been killed by border officials in provinces in the north-west of Iran. We call for prompt, impartial and full investigations into all such killings, and accountability for those found to be responsible for unlawful use of force leading to death or serious injury. Victims and their families have the right to truth and redress.

Under international human rights standards, firearms should only be used to defend against the imminent threat of death or serious injury and intentional lethal use of firearms is only justified when strictly unavoidable to protect life.

2) Algeria

We are very concerned about the deteriorating human rights situation in Algeria and the continued and increasing crackdown on members of the pro-democracy Hirak movement.

Protests, which had been continuing online as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, have resumed on the streets in recent weeks, with the authorities responding in the same repressive manner seen in 2019 and 2020.

There have been numerous instances across the country where security forces have used unnecessary or excessive force and arbitrary arrests to suppress peaceful demonstrations. According to reliable information, hundreds of individuals have been arrested since the protests resumed on 13 February 2021.

These developments echo what happened in 2019 and 2020, during which a total of least 2,500 people were arrested or detained in connection with their peaceful activism. Similarly, the criminal prosecution in 2019 and 2020 of activists, human rights defenders, students, journalists, bloggers and ordinary citizens expressing dissent continued during the first two months of 2021.

Journalists have been arrested for covering or reporting on the protest movement, and 16 independent online media outlets known for their critical reporting have been blocked.

Vaguely worded provisions of the Algerian Penal Code are being used to unduly restrict freedom of expression and prosecute people expressing dissenting opinions.

According to credible reports, some 1,000 individuals have been prosecuted for participating in the Hirak movement or for posting social media messages critical of the Government. According to the same reports, at least 32 people are currently detained for the legitimate exercise of their human rights, and some of them face lengthy sentences while others are still in pre-trial detention.

We have also received allegations of torture and ill-treatment in detention, including sexual violence.

We call upon the Algerian authorities to stop using violence against peaceful protestors and cease arbitrary arrests and detentions.

We urge the authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all those arbitrarily arrested or detained for allegedly supporting Hirak, and drop all charges against them.

We also call on the authorities to conduct prompt, impartial and effective investigations into all allegations of torture and ill-treatment in detention and hold all those responsible accountable and ensure that victims have access to redress.

We urge the authorities to repeal legal provisions and policies that are being used to prosecute people who exercise their rights to freedom of opinion and expression and peaceful assembly.

3) Montenegro

We are appalled by an attack earlier this week on a member of the LGBTI community in Montenegro, which according to local activists bore all the hallmarks of a hate crime.

According to information available, the man – who is a member of an NGO called LGBT Forum Progress – was attacked by two assailants on 3 March in the capital, Podgorica. He reportedly suffered cuts to his genitalia, face, and hands, and a cross was cut into his chest.

We understand that the victim has received some treatment and we welcome the fact that the attack has been widely condemned, including by the country’s political leaders. The police have launched an investigation, and we urge the authorities to ensure that the investigation is thorough, independent and effective and that those responsible are brought swiftly to account.

There has been progress in the respect for the rights of LGBTI people in Montenegro, including with the adoption in 2020 of a law on same sex life partnerships. However, the LGBTI community continues to face widespread discrimination, threats, hate speech and violence, as this latest incident sadly appears to show.

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