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Protests outside UN headquarters as Iran Minister of Justice speaks to Human Rights Council in Geneva
As Seyyed Alireza Avaei, the Iranian Minister of Justice, spoke in front of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on February 27, protesters gathered in front of the UN headquarters to speak out against Avayi's speech in light of his own record of human rights violations. A handful of European diplomats and Sweden's Foreign Minister left the council chamber in protest.

Avaei is on the European Union and Swiss sanctions lists over his alleged involvement in human rights violations, including arbitrary arrests and rise in executions during his time as president of Tehran judiciary.

Additionally, Avaei was part of the death commissions, which imposed the fatwa of Ayatollah Khomeini on at least 30,000 political prisoners who were executed in the summer of 1988. The main number of those executed were members or supporters of the PMOI/MEK.

About 150 demonstrators gathered outside the United Nations' European headquarters as part of their protest against Avaei and his participation in the council. Avaei's speech included mention of the fact that the Islamic penal code and criminal procedure code had been revised and he indicated that it would be more efficient in safeguarding the rights of the accused.

"In this context, the counter-narcotics law was amended. As a result, executions related to drug crimes will decrease remarkably," said Avaei. According to Amnesty International, Iran is second only to China in terms of its use of the death penalty.

In spite of supposed reforms to the criminal code, it is still clear that the regime has a long way to go in terms of how it deals with those who stand up against the ideology of the mullahs and the regime. The fundamentalism that Iran's government espouses is one that restricts the basic human rights of all Iranians.

Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, UN Human Rights Chief, criticized Iran in January for its disregard of the international prohibition of executing criminals that were juveniles when their crimes were committed. Many of these young criminals underwent torture for "confessions", and then were executed once they became adults.

The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres voiced his concern on Tuesday at the high number of executions in Iran, as well as reports of torture for those arrested in order to get confessions, the killing of anti-government protesters, and the harassment of activists. The regime has also been active in monitoring and in some cases, shutting down various social media outlets to keep Iranians from organizing protests. Large gatherings are also being banned or restricted in Iran, such that even concerts and art exhibits are being prohibited to avoid a gathering of individuals.

Standard Persian holidays are also being discouraged or banned, such as the celebration of Cyrus the Great's birthday, due to the fact that large numbers of Iranians would be in one place. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) have also been involved in efforts to clamp down on the Iranian people.

In light of these issues, the hypocrisy of having Avaei speak to the Human Rights Council becomes even more apparent.

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