European Union slams violence used by Iranian regime

Chief diplomat described internet shutdown as violation of freedom of speech

High Representative of the European Union Josep Borrell attends the 26th OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) Ministerial Council in Bratislava on December 5, 2019.  / AFP / VLADIMIR SIMICEK
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The European Union has accused Iran of using “disproportionate” and “unacceptable” levels of violence against protesters.

In one of his first statements since being named the bloc’s chief diplomat, Josep Borrell said Iranians had a “fundamental” right to demonstrate and express their frustrations at the economic situation in the country.

Mr Borrell also criticised the regime’s decision to cut off the internet and said it needed to free all non-violent protesters currently detained.

Last week Amnesty International said well over 200 people had been killed since demonstrations broke out on November 15, although the real figure is likely to be higher given the attempted information blackout imposed by Iranian authorities.

The NGO said it had verified footage that showed security forces shooting at unarmed civilians.

“We urge the Iranian authorities to ensure transparent and credible investigations to clarify the number of deaths and arrested, and to provide due process to all detainees,” said Mr Borrell, who previously served as the Spanish foreign minister.

“Iran’s decision to shut down internet access to global networks for over a week prevented communication and the free flow of information for Iranian citizens. This is a clear violation of the freedom of speech,” he added.

Mr Borrell urged Iran to respect basic human rights such as freedom of expression and assembly.

“A growing body of evidence indicates that despite repeated calls for restraint, the Iranian security forces’ disproportionate response to recent demonstrations has led to high numbers of deaths and injuries,” he said.

“For the European Union and its Member States, the widespread and disproportionate use of force against nonviolent protestors is unacceptable.”

Last week, Amnesty said Iranian authorities were showing a “shameful disregard for human life”.