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'Picture Emerging From Iran Extremely Disturbing', UN Official Warns

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet attends a session of the Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, March 6, 2019

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Friday expressed alarm for Iran's lack of transparency about casualties of the November protests and said the picture emerging from Iran is "extremely disturbing."

In a statement released on Friday the UN Human Rights Office said at least 7,000 people have reportedly been arrested in 28 of Iran's 31 provinces and the High Commissioner is "extremely concerned about the physical treatment, violations of their rights to due process, and the possibility that a significant number of them may be charged with offences that carry the death penalty, in addition to the conditions under which they are held.”

“In such circumstances, with so many reported deaths, it is essential the authorities act with far greater transparency”, Bachelet said according to the statement. Iranian authorities have so far refused to give any official account of the death toll of the protests and the number of the detained.

According to the statement, the High Commissioner has received information partially corroborating reports that Iranian security forces used machine guns against protesters in Jarahi Square in Mahshahr – including against people fleeing the area and people hiding in nearby reed-beds – resulting in at least 23 people killed, and possibly many more.

The UN Human Rights Office also said it has received numerous reports of ill-treatment of detainees "with the apparent aim of extracting forced confessions."

Iranian authorities including President Hassan Rouhani have said that "confessions" of individuals alleged to be "leaders of the riots" will be broadcast on the state-sponsored television.

Televised confessions are a propaganda tool the regime uses to discredit dissidents and to instil fear in the society. Several individuals who have made such confessions in the past have later said they were tortured to "confess" to being agents of hostile countries or carrying out terrorist operations.