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U.N.-appointed international legal experts who investigated Iran’s suppression of a women’s rights movement that erupted in September 2022 are appealing for more time to do their work, but objections from Tehran’s allies could terminate their mission next month.

The chairperson of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Iran, Sara Hossain, made the appeal Monday in Geneva, where she and her two counterparts presented their first in-depth report to the U.N. Human Rights Council.

The mission’s main finding was that Iran’s “violent repression of peaceful protests” of the Woman-Life-Freedom movement since September 2022 led to “serious human rights violations … many amounting to crimes against humanity.” The three-woman team’s mandate, established by the HRC in November 2022, expires at the end of the current HRC session on April 5.

At Monday’s HRC session, Iranian delegate Kazem Gharib Abadi rejected the fact-finding mission’s report as politically biased.

Speaking at a news briefing after presenting the report, Hossain said she and her colleagues are impartial and need more time to do their work, considering Iran’s refusal to let them into the country or engage with them in any way.

“In terms of all the challenges that we faced, it took quite some time for people to come forward and for us to begin to gather the evidence, and now, we’re on a roll, I would say. So, I think it’s important to continue that,” Hossain said. “In particular, it’s important to hear the voices that are still unheard. People have come to give that testimony at considerable personal risk … [and with a] belief that it’s important for what they experienced and what they witnessed to be recorded … and addressed by the international community and by their fellow nationals,” she said.

U.S. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller told reporters on March 14 that Washington “strongly supports” a resolution under consideration at the HRC session to renew the mandates of both the fact-finding mission and the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran.

A coalition of 43 international rights organizations also called for an extension of both mandates in a letter sent on Monday to HRC members. Regarding the fact-finding mission, they said, “the litany of crimes under international law related to the 2022 protests continue” and “must be addressed … [in order] for past patterns of violations not to repeat in the future.”

London-based Persian news network Iran International said Hossain told it that a mandate extension is not guaranteed because Tehran has a lot of allies who also may object to it.

Hillel Neuer, executive director of Geneva-based nongovernmental organization U.N. Watch, discussed the fact-finding mission’s prospects of getting an extension in this week’s edition of VOA’s Flashpoint Iran podcast.

The following transcript of Neuer’s March 18 interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

VOA: What is the process for extending the mandate?

Hillel Neuer, U.N. Watch: A resolution has to be adopted by the HRC. We’re currently in their main session, and resolutions will be voted on in a couple of weeks.

It’s common to have the mandate of the Special Rapporteur renewed. Regarding the fact-finding mission, that is less obvious. There has never before been a U.N. fact-finding mission on Iran. It’s not the norm for such missions to be renewed. So I’d say there is a big question mark about whether the United States and its allies will muster a majority to renew the mandate of the fact-finding mission. That will be a challenge requiring a lot of lobbying.

VOA: What is your expectation about whether the U.S. and its allies can succeed?

Neuer: I think it’s possible, but it will go down to the wire because 60% of the [47-nation] HRC are dictatorships or other forms of non-democracies. It’s something paradoxical, and for most people, absurd, but the fact is that the countries that push the hardest to be on the council are the worst violators of human rights.

So you have a situation where the current members of the council include Algeria, Bangladesh, Burundi, China, Cuba, Eritrea, regimes like Kazakhstan that shoot their own people, Qatar and Somalia, which is a failed state. They are in the majority. So every time you try to get a resolution that actually is in favor of human rights at the HRC, it’s a challenge.

That is why most of the worst regimes never get their human rights issues addressed at all. The fact that Iran was addressed is kind of extraordinary, because of the protests triggered by the September 2022 death in morality police custody of Iranian Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini.

It’s going to be very hard work for the U.S. and its allies to convince a majority of this kind of council to vote in favor of extending the fact-finding mission. I don’t think they will get a majority. They might get a plurality, whereby if you get 15 nations voting yes, 11 voting no and all the rest abstaining, it passes. They just need more yeses than nos. At best, I think we’re going to see more yeses than nos, with lots of countries abstaining.