56 countries join controversial declaration on Iran rights
Some 56 countries on Tuesday signed up to a US inspired declaration calling on Iran to investigate a deadly crackdown on street protests following the contested presidential election a year ago.
The statement sparked controversy for a few hours at the UN Human Rights Council, as Iran stopped Norwegian ambassador Bente Angell-Hansen reading it out.
Other countries including Pakistan, China and Cuba raised objections until a compromise was found.
The statement released by Western countries said: "We cannot let this Human Rights Council session go by without marking the one year anniversary of these events this month."
The 56 countries that signed the joint statement came from Europe, North and South America and parts of the Asia-Pacific region, including 16 of the 47 members of the UN rights council.
"The states that have joined in making this statement wish to express their concern at the lack of progress in the protection of human rights in Iran, particularly since the events surrounding the elections in Iran last June."
It highlighted "the violent suppression of dissent, detention and executions without due process of law, severe discrimination against women and minorities... and restrictions on freedom of expression and religion."
The statement called on Iran to live up to its international commitments "and to conduct an independent investigation regarding killings, arrests and detentions following the demonstrations following the 2009 elections."
After losing to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the June 12, 2009 election, opposition leaders dismissed the result as having been rigged, sparking street protests in the Islamic republic in the following months.
Security forces cracked down heavily on dissent, with deadly violence and mass arrests, while prominent reformists, journalists and rights campaigners were put on trial -- with many receiving stiff jail sentences.
Authorities in Tehran have vowed to crack down on any new opposition protests.
© 2010 AFP