Countries With Poor Human Rights Records Close Ranks Around Iran, North Korea

December 23, 2010 - 6:13 AM

Iran protest

Protesting Iranians are attacked by pro-regime militia members after the disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in June 2009. (AP Photo)

( – At the end of a year in which Tehran’s human rights record was widely criticized, more than half of the world’s 192 independent countries failed to support a resolution at the U.N. this week expressing “deep concern at serious ongoing and recurring human rights violations in Iran.”

Forty-five member states voted against the resolution in the U.N. General Assembly in New York on Tuesday, while another 59 abstained. Seventy-eight countries supported it.

Many of the countries voting “no” were fellow members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). They were joined by non-Muslim countries, which also are frequently censured for human rights abuses, including Burma, China, Cuba, North Korea, Russia, Venezuela, Vietnam and Zimbabwe.

On the other hand, a number of Islamic states, including Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Morocco and around a dozen OIC members in Africa, abstained.

Of note was the fact that neither Turkey nor Iraq took part in the vote (although both countries’ representatives were present during the General Assembly session and did participate in votes on more than a dozen other resolutions.)

The warming relationship between NATO member Turkey and Iran has become an issue of concern to the United States and other Western countries this year.

The Islamist-leaning government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan voted against a U.N. Security Council resolution in June imposing new sanctions against Iran over its nuclear activities, and at a NATO summit last month it insisted that Iran not be named in a document regarding missile defense plans for Europe.

The Shi’ite-led government in Iraq also balances its relationship with the United States with close ties to the neighboring Islamic Republic.

The resolution passed by the General Assembly on Tuesday highlighted rights violations in Iran “including torture, the high incidence in carrying out the death penalty, including against persons under the age of 18, violence against women, persecution against ethnic minorities, and increased persecution against members of the Baha’i faith.”

It also noted that the government had failed to investigate satisfactorily alleged violations arising after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s disputed June 2009 re-election.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton welcomed passage of the resolution.

“To all those Iranians struggling to lift your voices and speak up for fundamental freedoms and human rights, you are not alone,” she said in a statement Wednesday. “The United States and the international community stand with you.”

‘Not free’ states stick together

Of the 45 countries that voted against the Iran resolution, one – Indonesia – is ranked “free” by Washington-based democracy watchdog Freedom House, which rates countries each year based on scores for political freedoms and civil liberties.

Twelve of the 45 countries voting “no” on the Iran measure are “partly free – Armenia, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Comores, Ecuador, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Venezuela.

The rest are ranked “not free”:  Afghanistan, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Belarus, Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, China, Cuba, Egypt, Eritrea, Guinea, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Libya, Mauritania, North Korea, Oman, Qatar, Russia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zimbabwe.

Among other resolutions voted on during Tuesday’s General Assembly session was one expressing “very serious concern at continuing reports of systematic, widespread and grave violations of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights” in North Korea.

It passed by 106 votes to 20, with 50 abstentions.

Of the 20 member states that voted against the North Korea measure, 18 are countries ranked “not free” by Freedom House in 2010 – Algeria, Belarus, Burma, China, Cuba, Egypt, Guinea, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Oman, Russia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zimbabwe.

The remaining countries unwilling to support the resolution were Malaysia and Venezuela, both assessed as “partly free” by Freedom House.