The U.N. Human Rights Council has voted to approve a U.S.-backed resolution to appoint a rapporteur to monitor the state of human rights in Iran.
Expressing grave concern about the Iranian government’s crackdown on dissent and anti-government protesters since the disputed June 2009 presidential elections, the 47-member Geneva-based rights body voted 22 in favor, 7 against, with 14 abstentions to approve the resolution.
“The United States and other partners are gravely concerned at the situation in Iran where respect for human rights has deteriorated dramatically in recent years,” U.S. ambassador to the Council Eileen Donahoe said before the vote.
With the appointment of a UN Iran rights monitor, “Iranian human rights defenders and victims of abuses will gain an important ally in the U.N. system—a high-profile expert who will spotlight violations and press for change,” Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations Suzanne Nossel told The Envoy Thursday.
Critics on the right have long assailed the U.N. body for serving as a venue for anti-Israel rhetoric, while including notorious human rights abusers on its list of members. But the council has lately shored up its moral legitimacy in the eyes of some observers. Today’s vote on the Iranian human-rights issue is the latest such step, but others include a unanimous vote earlier this month to kick Libya off the council and a vote expected tomorrow that will establish a commission of inquiry on Cote d’Ivoire.
Nossel said that the Obama administration’s decision to join the council was a key step in making it a more effective, if still imperfect, body. “There is still a lot more work to do — particularly on improving Israel’s treatment — but we see some positive signs,” she said.
Earlier this week, the United States helped lead an 85-country statement on decriminalizing Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans-gender conduct at the Council. On Wednesday, the Council also approved its first-ever Israeli to serve as a UN special procedures mandate-holder; Frances Raday will be on the expert body on discrimination against women established last September.
This week, the Council is also expected to pass a consensus resolution that pushes back on the invocation of “defamation of religion” which has been used to justify harsh blasphemy laws, Nossel said.
The Washington-based National Iranian American Council praised the Council’s vote Thursday to name an Iran rights special rapporteur.
“This concrete measure sends a powerful message to the government of Iran that the world will not turn a blind eye to its human rights violations,” said NIAC’s Jamal Abdi.
National Security Advisor Tom Donilon also welcomed the action, calling it an “historic milestone that reaffirms the global consensus and alarm about the dismal state of human rights in Iran.”