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UNGA Resolution on Human Rights in Iran Passes by 86 to 36 Margin

(December 19, 2013) – Yesterday, the UN General Assembly Resolution on the promotion and protection of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) passed in a Plenary vote with a final tally of 86 in favor, 36 against, and 61 abstentions.  On November 19, 2013, the UNGA’s Third Committee adopted the Resolution with a vote of 83 in favor, 36 against, and 62 abstentions. UN member states that changed their vote from the Third Committee to the Plenary in favor of the Resolution include the Maldives, Kiribati, Dominica, South Sudan and Trinidad and Tobago.

The text of the Resolution addresses the IRI’s high execution rate and the denial of due process for defendants facing the death penalty and otherwise. The Resolution also addresses the IRI’s use of corporal punishment and calls upon the Iranian government to cease the use of flogging, blinding and other forms of torture. The Resolution calls for improvements on women’s rights with a particular focus on women’s access to university education.

Since the adoption of the Resolution by the Third Committee last month, a number of developments—both domestically and internationally—have further emphasized the need for the passage of the Resolution and the international community’s engagement on human rights in Iran. 

On November 26, one hundred days into his presidential term, President Hassan Rouhani released a draft Charter of Citizens’ Rights, that he had promised the electorate if voted into office. While the Charter addresses freedom of thought and expression as well as recognition of cultural and ethnic minorities, it does not adequately address existing human rights abuses and fits squarely within the confines of the Iranian constitution and the existing framework of discriminatory laws in Iran.

Additionally, despite Rouhani’s promises to improve human rights conditions in Iran, abuses continue, and in some cases have worsened. Since Rouhani’s inauguration into office, the rate of prisoner executions has significantly increased. Arrests of perceived dissidents have continued, including that of more than a dozen cyberactivists. Earlier this month, reports surfaced about the arrest of Amir Tataloo, a popular underground rapper, by morality police. Tataloo was later released, but the reasons for his arrest remain unclear.

On the international front, an interim deal was reached between the IRI and the so-called “P5+1” countries over the curtailment of Iran’s nuclear program. While the deal signaled renewed diplomatic engagement with the IRI, human rights considerations were notably absent from the negotiations.

In light of these domestic and international developments, the passage of the UN General Assembly resolution represents a welcome step in continued international engagement on human rights issues in Iran.

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