UN rights council votes for investigator on Iran

24th March 2011, Comments 0 comments

The UN human rights council on Thursday voted to appoint an investigator to monitor Iran amid a crackdown on dissent and surge in executions in the country.

Ending a nine-year break in such dedicated scrutiny, the council voted by 22 to seven for a 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.

Speaking in support of the resolution, US ambassador Eileen Donahoe said the Washington and its partners are "gravely concerned about the situation in Iran where respect for human rights has deteriorated dramatically in recent years."

"We believe that the independent investigation and reporting that a dedicated special rapporteur will conduct will help this council responsibly address the serious human rights abuses described in the secretary general's interim report," she added.

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 invitations to UN rights chief Navi Pillay to visit the country this year.

Such resolutions targetting specific countries show that the UN human rights mechanism has been abused, the Iranian envoy, Seyed Mohammad Reza Sajjadi, said.

It is an "unfair and unjustified action" and disservice, and "such a move is doomed to fail and should be categorically rejected," the envoy added.

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."

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay last month also expressed dismay at an increase in executions since the beginning of the year 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.

"It is absolutely unacceptable for individuals to be imprisoned for association with opposition groups, let alone be executed for their political views or affiliations," she warned.

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.

© 2011 AFP

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