U.S. and Sweden to push U.N. rights body to act on Iran

Reuters News
|
Posted: Mar 18, 2011 4:10 PM
U.S. and Sweden to push U.N. rights body to act on Iran

By Robert Evans

GENEVA (Reuters) - The United States will strongly support a Swedish effort to have the U.N. Human Rights Council appoint a special investigator into rights violations in Iran, U.S. ambassador Eileen Donahoe said on Friday.

She told a news briefing the idea had backing from a wide range of countries in the 47-nation council -- including members of the self-styled non-aligned group (NAM), who normally unite to shield each other from criticism.

Earlier this week, Swedish state secretary for foreign affairs Frank Belfrage told the five-year-old rights body his country was deeply concerned by "the worsening human rights situation in Iran."

He said the number of executions in Iran so far this year had reaching alarming proportions. "The most horrendous methods of killing human beings are still being used. Taking a person's life by stoning them is nothing less than barbaric," he added.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the council on Monday that Iran pursued "violence abroad and tyranny at home." Iranian rights activists wanted a U.N. investigator, she added.

"The resolution that is being pursued has a lot of support from across the regions because Iran is an extreme case," Donahoe said on Friday. "We will be working with Sweden very hard on this."

U.N. rights chief Navi Pillay says there has been a wave of arrests of opponents and critics of the Iranian government, apparently prompted by popular uprisings in nearby Arab states, and the text will refer to this.

If passed it would set up a post of special rapporteur, or investigator, to monitor Iran's compliance with international rights agreements it has signed and to report regularly to the council.

Co-sponsors of the resolution include the Maldives, an Indian ocean archipelago which is a member with Iran of the 57-nation Organization of Islamic States (OIC), and Zambia, part of the African group, Donahoe said.

OIC and African countries are part of the wider -- and majority -- NAM bloc in the council, as well as in the U.N. General Assembly, which, with the support of Russia, China and Cuba, can usually control its agenda.

But the bloc broke apart last week when a European Union resolution condemning attacks on unarmed protesters by Libyan government security forces and recommending Libya's expulsion from the council was approved by consensus.

That resolution had been formally supported by four OIC states. The General Assembly agreed unanimously on Tuesday to suspend Libya's membership of the Geneva rights forum.

Diplomats said it would still be hard to get an Iran resolution passed as most members of the NAM group and their Russian and Chinese supporters strongly oppose having U.N. special investigators looking into one country's affairs.

(Editing by Stephanie Nebehay)