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UN Human Rights Council Coddles Iran

And the Obama administration plays along.

12:00 AM, Jun 15, 2010 • By ANNE BAYEFSKY
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He also brought with him a few props.  The inequality of women in Iran is legendary – men are entitled to kill their wives for adultery if they aren’t first stoned to death by judicial decree.  But two women on the Iranian team, Fatemeh Alia and Mahboubeh Mobasheri, informed the Council: “The significant advancement of Iranian women’s status in the society during the period of 30 years after the victory of the Islamic revolution under the auspices of the strategic national policy and programs is undeniable.”

Similarly, Larijani brought along a Christian, Yonathan Betkolia.  Iran is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for religious minorities and a Muslim who converts to Christianity has committed a crime punishable by death. But Betkolia said:  “Under the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, race, ethnicity, and religion do not distinguish among people, bestowing superiority to one group over another.”

After Iran’s presentation, other states were given two minutes each to weigh in.  UN officials thought fairness meant fairness to the Iranian government, not fairness to the victims of human rights abuses in Iran. So they allowed the same number of states to speak in favor of Iran’s human rights record as spoke against. 

Hence, another hour passed with the following kinds of contributions.  Venezuela congratulated Iran on “shed[ding] light on the efforts and commitment undertaken by the country to promote and protect human rights.”  Lebanon praised “the efforts made by the Islamic Republic of Iran to promote…the rights of women.” Libya “commend[ed] the national legislation in the field of human rights.”  Syria declared “The constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran…consolidates human rights and fundamental freedoms of the people as a basic principle of the general policy of the republic.” And Zimbabwe fawned:  “The Islamic Republic of Iran’s commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights is glaringly noticeable.”

The UPR only takes place once every four years and by the time the Iranians and the pro-Iran crowd had finished there was just one hour left for criticism.  The Council divided it up into two minutes per speaker. The speed-reading of the Obama administration’s 120-second contribution to improve human rights in Iran was duly performed by Michael Posner, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.

The Council then gave Iran the last word. Said Larijani: “Violence against women is more than anywhere in the United States and a number of western countries.  In Islamic states and Iran, definitely women are very much respected...Thank you very much, Mr. President, for your free and fair leadership of this meeting.” 

The Council responded by breaking into a warm round of applause.  That’s applause – from the UN’s lead human rights agency – for a country whose leadership has openly declared that genocide against Jews is state policy.

The next step in the UPR process was to give Iran an opportunity to accept or reject the recommendations that had been made to it over the course of the dialogue.  Within 48 hours, Iran rejected recommendations to “abolish in practice, public executions by hanging and stoning… Prosecute security officials involved in torturing, raping or killing…Repeal or amend all discriminatory provisions against women and girls in national legislation…[E]nd discrimination and harassment against persons belonging to ethnic and religious minorities….”

Over the next three months, Iran was given more time to respond to the recommendations and produced a written statement which the UN duly added to its “report” on Iranian human rights conditions. 

In response to the recommendation to “end its severe restrictions on the rights to free expression, association and assembly; and end the harassment and persecution of journalists and bloggers,” Iran wrote and the UN published:  “press and publications are free to express their opinions except when it is detrimental to the fundamental principles of Islam.”

In response to the recommendation to “consider the elimination of cruel punishment, including…stoning,” Iran said:  “The term 'cruel punishment' is applicable to none of the punishments stipulated in the laws of the country.” 

In response to the recommendation to “provide due process of law for those charged with crimes,” “provide guarantees of a fair trial,” and “take steps to end the current culture of impunity,” Iran replied that it regarded these “recommendations to be irrelevant to the internal situation in the country.”

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