The U.N. voted to commence an investigation into Iran’s crackdown on nationwide protests over the past two months.
The Human Rights Council will appoint an independent investigator to complete a fact-finding mission on Tehran’s response to the protests after the council passed the motion on Thursday. The council’s chief, Volker Turk, said that Iran was in a “full-fledged” crisis and called the government’s actions “unacceptable” and “disproportionate” in his opening address.
Volker noted that at least 300 people have died, and more than 14,000 have been arrested, since the protests started in mid-September. Some estimates put the number as high as 350 dead and over 15,000 arrested.
“Iranian officials will not be able to perpetrate this violent crackdown anonymously,” U.S. ambassador to the HRC Michele Taylor said of the vote, according to The Guardian. “The international community is watching.”
But Iran’s representative at the meeting, Khadijeh Karimi, accused the West of using the council to target her country in an “appalling and disgraceful” move.
The protests started in response to the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who died in a hospital after slipping into a coma after an alleged beating by the country’s morality police. Officers had arrested Amini for breaching the country’s hijab (headscarf) laws.
What started as demonstrations in the capital spread to over 140 cities and towns across the country, growing into the most significant challenges to the regime since its establishment following the 1979 revolution.
Protesters have even gone so far as attacking historic institutions, such as burning a museum dedicated to the regime’s founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
U.S. State Secretary Antony Blinken hailed the vote for leaving “no doubt” that the council “recognizes the gravity of the situation in Iran,” and he argued that the fact-finding mission will “ensure that those engaged in the ongoing violent suppression of Iranian people are identified and their actions documented.”
The mission will collect evidence of the regime’s actions, which can then be used in legal proceedings at the world court.
The council has faced a number of challenges to its validity and authority in recent years after the U.S. initially withdrew over concerns that the council had lost its purpose. It also failed to pass a motion to investigate China over its treatment of its Uyghur population.
Reuters contributed to this report.