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UN Council Agrees To Appoint Rights Investigator For Iran

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on Tehran "to fully guarantee freedom of expression and assembly and to open up greater space for human rights lawyers and activists."
The United Nations Human Rights Council has agreed to establish a UN human rights investigator for Iran -- the first in a decade.

The 47-member Geneva council approved by 22 to seven the Swedish resolution to appoint a special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran.

Fourteen countries abstained and four did not participate.

The text voiced concern at Iran's crackdown on opposition figures and increased use of the death penalty and called on the Islamic republic to cooperate with the envoy to be named to the independent post.

The council also regretted "the lack of cooperation" on the part of the Islamic republic over recurring human rights abuses in the country.

The move was welcomed by human rights groups and activists who have been expressing concern over the deterioration of the human rights situation in the Islamic Republic.

Hadi Ghaemi, the executive director of the International Human Rights Campaign for Iran, told RFE/RL that the UN decision sends a strong message of support to Iranian citizens who he said have faced increasing repression since the 2009 disputed presidential vote.

“This is a significant victory for the Iranian people, whose rights have been seriously violated -- particularly in the past two years," Ghaemi said.

"It is also a major defeat for the Iranian government because the number of countries that voted for the resolution was three times more than those that voted against. “

Abdolkarim Lahidji, who is vice president of the Paris-based International Federation of Human Rights Leagues, said the vote shows just how isolated Iran has become on the international stage.

Lahidji told Radio Farda rights groups will push for the rapporteur to be from a non-Western country to increase chances of Iran’s cooperation.

“We will try for the rapporteur to be from Africa or Asia so that Tehran cannot find any excuses and say that the U.S. and Western countries are plotting against the Islamic Republic. Maybe we will even be able to introduce a rapporteur who is a Muslim,” Lahidji said.

In advocating for the position, U.S. ambassador to the UN Human Rights Council, Eileen Donahoe, said Washington and its partners were "gravely concerned at the situation in Iran, where respect for human rights has deteriorated dramatically in recent years."

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had called for the creation of the UN rights post in a speech to the council last month.

The last UN special rapporteur on Iran's mandate was not renewed in 2002.

UN Criticism Of Iran's Record

Iran rejected the resolution and defended its "unflinching commitment" to human rights, saying that it has extended invitations to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay to visit the country this year.

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

Earlier this month, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he had been "deeply troubled by reports of increased executions, amputations, arbitrary arrest and detention, unfair trials, and possible torture and ill-treatment of human rights activists, lawyers, journalists, and opposition activists."

In a report to the Human Rights Council, Ban called on Tehran "to fully guarantee freedom of expression and assembly and to open up greater space for human rights lawyers and activists."

The report says prominent rights activists in Iran have been charged with national security offenses and given disproportionately heavy sentences and travel bans.

The council voted separately to extend the mandate of the special rapporteur on North Korea for another year.

compiled from agency reports