PRESS BRIEFING BY THE UNITED NATIONS INFORMATION SERVICE
Alessandra Vellucci, Director of the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, chaired the hybrid briefing, which was attended by spokespersons and representatives of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the International Labour Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Health Organization, and the United Nations Refugee Agency.
Suppression of protests in Iran
Ravina Shamdasani, for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), stated that criminal proceedings and the death penalty were being weaponized by the Iranian Government to punish individuals participating in protests and to strike fear into the population in order to stamp out dissent, in violation of international human rights law.
Four individuals engaged in the recent demonstrations had been executed over the past month following expedited trials that had not met the minimum guarantees of fair trial and due process required by international human rights law binding on Iran, making their executions tantamount to arbitrary deprivation of life.
“The weaponization of criminal procedures to punish people for exercising their basic rights – such as those participating in or organizing demonstrations - amounts to state sanctioned killing.
I reiterate once more my call to the Government of Iran to respect the lives and voices of its people, to impose an immediate moratorium on the death penalty and to halt all executions,” Ms. Shamdasani quoted the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, whose full statement can be read here.
Responding to questions from the media, Mohammad Al Nsour, Chief of Middle East and North Africa with the OHCHR, stated that the Office was in touch with the Iranian authorities at different levels. OHCHR believed that the criminal charges, including “corruption on Earth”, used by the authorities in Iran, were very vague. The two persons whose execution appeared to be imminent had been charged with insulting security officers, part of “corruption on Earth”, explained Mr. Al Nsour. OHCHR could not stay silent when they were such violations of human rights in Iran. He explained that the OHCHR provided technical support for the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Iran, established by the Human Rights Council in December 2022. Thousands of individual petitions and pieces of information had been received by the OHCHR thus far, which was very much appreciated.
Ms. Shamdasani said that the High Commissioner for Human Rights had stated that there was a lack of due process, and the charges were spurious and vaguely worded; those executions could hence amount to state-sanctioned killings. Mr. Al Nsour informed that all those who had been executed or awaiting execution were over 18 years of age; at least one woman was among them. Iran had ratified the Covenant on Political and Civil Rights, he confirmed.
Regarding a possible visit of the High Commissioner to Teheran, Mr. Al Nsour explained that, as of today, there was no agreed date or terms of reference for such a visit. The High Commissioner had expressed his readiness to visit Iran and to engage in a constructive discussion with the authorities there.
Answering questions, Alessandra Vellucci said that every time the Secretary-General had spoken to Iranian officials, he had expressed concern over the situation. She also reminded that the United Nations was against the use of the death penalty under any circumstances; just the previous month Zambia had abolished the capital punishment, in a welcome development. Ms. Shamdasani added that more than 170 States had either abolished the capital punishment or had a de facto moratorium in place, which was a positive trend.
Latest Food Price Index
Boubaker Ben-Belhassen, Director of the Trade and Markets Division at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), speaking from Rome, informed that the FAO Food Price Index had averaged 132.4 points in December 2022, down 2.6 points from November, marking the ninth consecutive monthly decline and standing 1.3 points below its value a year before. The decline in the index in December had been driven by a steep drop in the international prices of vegetable oils, together with some declines in cereal and meat prices, but partially counterbalanced by moderate increases in those of sugar and dairy. For 2022 as a whole, however, the FFPI had averaged 143.7 points, up from 2021 by as much as 18 points.
Mr. Ben-Belhassen specified that the FAO Cereal Price Index had averaged 147.3 points in December, down 2.9 points from November, but still 6.8 points above its December 2021 value. This increase was due to a host of factors, including significant market disruptions, increased uncertainties, higher energy and input costs, adverse weather in a few key suppliers, and continued strong global food demand. The FAO Vegetable Oil Price Index had averaged 144.4 points in December, down 10.3 points from November and hitting its lowest level since February 2021. The FAO Meat Price Index had averaged 113.8 points in December, down 1.4 points from November, marking the sixth consecutive monthly decline, but remained 2.8 points above its year-earlier level. The December decrease had been driven by lower world prices of bovine and poultry meats. Finally, the FAO Dairy Price Index had averaged 139.1 points in December, up 1.5 points from November, registering an increase after five months of consecutive declines and surpassing by 10.1 points its value a year before.
Mr. Ben-Belhassen stressed that it was important to remain vigilant as food prices remained at an elevated level, and the global markets were still not stable. Increased import costs had placed an additional pressure on poor, food-importing countries. It was important to keep export trade routes open and avoid restrictions, he said. Replying to questions, he said that, despite the Black Sea Grain Initiative, Ukraine was still far from its export potential.
More details are available here.
International Conference on Climate Resilient Pakistan
Alessandra Vellucci, for the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), stated that during the conference in Geneva the previous day, delegations had recalled their assistance to the immediate relief efforts and affirmed their support to the people of Pakistan for a resilient recovery, rehabilitation, and reconstruction. Delegations had expressed their solidarity and announced commitments of financial support to the realization of the objectives and priority areas outlined in the Resilient Recovery, Rehabilitation, and Reconstruction Framework (4RF), as well as to ongoing humanitarian efforts. Taken as a whole, those commitments totaled more than USD 9 billion from both bilateral and multilateral partners, and for the first time in a multilateral setting, developing countries pledged more than half of the amount needed to support Pakistan’s 4RF.
Rosalind Yarde, for the International Labour Organization (ILO), informed about the launch of the new World Employment and Social Outlook Trends Report on 16 January, to coincide with the start of the World Economic Forum. The report looked into the slowdown of the labour market and analyzed patterns across regions and groups of workers. An embargoed press briefing would take place on 13 January at 9 a.m.. Embargoed copies of press release would be shared in advance. Individual interviews with report authors could be arranged.
Responding to a question, Carla Drysdale, for the World Health Organization (WHO), said that the next COVID-19 IHR Emergency Committee would take place on 27 January.
On another question, Boris Cheshirkov, for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), referred to the previous briefing and a tweet in which UNHCR had addressed the issue of the US’ new immigration laws.