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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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Iran understood that it had nothing to fear from the UN Human Rights Council.  Far from being a serious mechanism to do anything about Iran’s human rights violations, a cocky Larijani reappeared on June 10 at the Council for the final UPR phase.  He accurately summed up the process this way:  “the universal periodic review has provided a unique opportunity…to raise awareness of Iran’s practices and experiences on the promotion of human rights.” 

He wasn’t kidding.  He took his seat before the Council and without any hesitation explained why Iran had not ratified the Convention Against Torture:  “Torture is one thing and punishment is another thing…This is a conceptual dispute. Some form of these punishments should not be considered torture according to our law.”  By which he meant flogging, amputation, and stoning.  Allowed once more to be the last to speak, he finished off on June 10 by telling the Council:  “The Islamic Republic of Iran…is a democracy.  We are perhaps the only democracy, the greatest democracy, in the Middle East and we are very proud of this achievement.”

What did the UN Human Rights Council do in the face of such deceit from the front man for a serial human rights abuser and the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism?  It unanimously passed – with the participation and approval of the United States, now a Council member – the one sentence “adopting the report” – with all its Iranian misrepresentations and rejections of recommendations contained therein. 

The Council made no effort to adopt a resolution condemning Iran’s human rights record. And the United States delegation made no effort even to introduce a resolution on Iranian rights abuses.

The UN Human Rights Council has in fact never adopted any resolution critical of Iran, nor has it even created an investigator on human rights violations by Iran. (The Council has been too busy with Israel – adopting more resolutions and decisions condemning Israel than all other 191 UN states combined.)  But in the immortal words of Ambassador Donahoe when the Iranian UPR was all over:  “the UPR process has been an incredible success for the Human Rights Council.” 

At least Donahoe clarified the meaning of the crux of the Obama administration’s foreign policy, that illustrious principled engagement and strategic multilateralism.  She announced at the final press stakeout:  “We are no longer willing to stand by and allow empty rhetoric to convince others around the world.  We have to shine a light on the facts on the ground and come back with our own rhetoric.” 

Rhetoric for rhetoric – the modern liberal’s idea of protecting human rights. 

And so with a rhetorical flourish Donahoe added:  “empty promises are not enough.  It is time for Iran to actually do something with respect to the human rights situation.”  To which Iran can now respond “right back at ya.”

Anne Bayefsky is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and director of the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust.

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