Posted by: bahareiran | March 24, 2011

UN rights council votes for investigator on Iran

by Peter Capella, March 24, 2011 (AFP) – The UN human rights council on Thursday voted step up international scrutiny of Iran by appointing an investigator to monitor the country amid a crackdown on dissent and surge in executions there.

Ending a nine-year break in such dedicated scrutiny, the council voted by 22 to seven for a European-led resolution that decided “to appoint a Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

Fourteen countries abstained.

The council also regretted “the lack of cooperation on the part of the Islamic Republic of Iran” over recurring human rights abuses in the country following a UN General Assembly resolution adopted last December.

The United States, which had been pressing for the appointment, welcomed the outcome, calling it a “seminal moment”.

“Today we have been able to see the council respond to a chronic, severe human rights violator which is Iran and we’re very pleased at this development,” US ambassador Eileen Donahoe told journalists afterwards, underlining the margin of the vote.

Donahoe said the step was necessary to deal with an “extreme situation, Iran is one of those.”

The US envoy had told the council that a dedicated independent investigator would be able address “dramatically” deteriorating respect for human rights in Iran in recent years.

Iran rejected the resolution angrily, accusing the United States of being the “main organiser of this campaign.”

It attacked the “destructive role” of the US in the council and condemned Washington’s own rights violations inside and outside its territory.

Iran also defended its “unflinching commitment” to human rights, saying that it has extended an invitation to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay to visit the country this year.

Such resolutions targetting specific countries showed that the UN human rights mechanism has been abused, the Iranian envoy, Seyed Mohammad Reza Sajjadi, said as he called on the council to reject the resolution

He described it as an “unfair and unjustified action”.

China, Cuba, Russia, and Pakistan on behalf of Islamic states, supported Iran.

In December, the UN General Assembly had expressed “deep concern at serious ongoing and recurring human rights violations” in Iran, such as “torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, including flogging and amputations.”

Pillay last month also expressed dismay at an increase in executions since the beginning of 2011 and reiterated calls for a moratorium on the death penalty.

By March 7 the number of executions reported in Iran so far this year stood at 92, according to an AFP count based on media reports. The authorities say 80 percent of those executed have been drug traffickers.

In 2009, Iran executed 388 people, according to international human rights groups, second only to China in the number of people it put to death.

Tehran says the death penalty is essential to maintain law and order and applied only after exhaustive judicial proceedings.

Pillay had highlighted the executions of “political activists” such as Jafar Kazemi and Mohammad Ali Haj Aqaei who she said were arrested during protests in September 2009 and hanged in January.

The last UN Special Rapporteur on Iran’s mandate was not renewed in 2002. Tehran had explicitly banned him from visiting the country in 1996.

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