Geneva [Switzerland], March 8 (ANI): The United Nations has said as many as 23 people were killed in Iran's Sistan Baluchistan province when authorities opened fire on fuel porters and protestors last month.
In a crackdown on cross-border fuel trade, Iran's Revolutionary Guards reportedly used live ammunition on a group of people transporting fuel across the Iranian border with Pakistan.
Shooting on Feburary 22 left 10 Baluchi people dead and five injured in the town of Saravan, Al-Monitor reported.
The shooting has sparked protests across southeastern Iran, during which security forces reportedly fired on the crowds to disperse them. According to Baluchi human rights defenders, two people, including a child, were fatally shot during the protests.
A spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Rupert Colville on Friday said: "According to some estimates, which we are unable to confirm, as many as 23 people may have been killed in all."
"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," he said.
"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," he added.
Colville called on the authorities to immediately restore internet access in areas that remain disconnected.
Deploring the systematic intentional use of lethal force by Iranian border officials, especially against border couriers from the Kurdish and Baluch minorities, the UN body called 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," he said.
Located along Iran's border with Pakistan, Sistan-Baluchistan is among Iran's poorest provinces and is rife with drug traffickers and separatist ethnic Baluch militants. The region is majority Sunni Muslim, whereas Iran's population is majority Shiite.
Baluch rights activists organised a demonstration in the Pakistani port city of Karachi this week to protest the violence. (ANI)