Democracies slam Iran abuses at UN review, others offer praise

Iran’s record was reviewed today by the 47-nation UN Human Rights Council, under its quadrennial Universal Periodic Review (UPR) procedure. Click here for UN Watch’s full transcript of the debate, or see summary below. The video webcast archive will be available here.

Iran’s delegation was headed by Mohammad Javad Ardashir Larijani, Secretary General of Iran’s High Council for Human Rights, who used the N-word to describe President Obama in a recent speech to the Islamic Engineers Society in Tehran. He mentioned to the UN today that his brother is Iranian parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani.

Western democracies led the way this morning in seeking to hold Iran to account.

United States Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Michael Posner expressed alarm at Iran’s treatment of civilians, juveniles and journalists under detention. The US called on Iran to discontinue show trials, eliminate restrictions on free speech and assembly, and to allow visits by UN rights monitors. Click for full text.

France accused Iran’s government of engaging in “the bloody repression of its own people.” Canada condemned Iran’s violent crackdowns and torture as being contrary to Iran’s constitution. SpainGermany, and Denmark urged Iran to respect international covenants, and end discrimination against minorities, women and children.

Australia urged the Ahmadinejad government to allow a visit by the UN Secretary-General and the UN investigator on torture. Israel called on Iran to end its abuses of basic human rights as well as its incitement to hatred and Holocaust denial.

Regrettably, however, many of the Human Rights Council’s member and observer states actually praised the Iranian government.

Pakistan, Cuba, and Lebanon commended Iran’s written report to the review panel as evidence of the country’s commitment to human rights. Pakistan said that “we should acknowledge that no country in the world can claim a blemish-free human rights record.”

Nicaragua expressed solidarity with Iran as “a victim of the same oppressors.” Kazakhstan said “Iran has always been a model of a free society.”

China, while noting “difficulties,” said the Iranian government clearly “places great importance and commitment to human rights that led to great progress in health, education and the protection of economic, social and cultural rights.”

Libya praised Iran’s judiciary system for its “impartiality.” Algeria criticized politicization of the UN review procedure, saying that Western nations demanded “development that took the West decades.”

In response, Iran said its judiciary was “independent.” The delegation called the condition of prisons “reasonable.” Larijani said that the “significant advancement of Iranian women’s status is undeniable,” and that “the number of books published by women has increased by 74.21%.”

With respect to the rights of Bahais, said Larijani, “all Iranian citizens enjoy equal rights, and color and race constitute no immunity.” However, he said that Bahai was not an official religion.  Bahai university students were expelled because they failed to meet entrance requirements and belonged to “an illegal cult,”  and committed “illegal acts like the defamation of the Islamic Republic and the destruction of property.”

Larijani said that “Iran is becoming one of the prominent democratic countries in the region.” He complained about “double standards.” Iran, he said, will be receiving the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in 2011.

In jabs at Washington, he said that “Violence against women happens more in the United States than anywhere.” He chided the US for violations in Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib, eliciting approving laughter from the assembled delegates. “We don’t believe that the only way to live is the liberal democracy of the West.” When Larijani concluded, the room applauded.

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