55 abstentions in the 191-member assembly. Reuters
By Evelyn Leopold
UNITED NATIONS - The U.N. General Assembly has criticised Iran for public executions, torture, arbitrary sentencing, flogging, stoning and systematic discrimination against women.
Sponsored by Canada, the human rights resolution was adopted on Monday by a vote of 71 in favour, 54 against with 55 abstentions in the 191-member assembly.
The measure also rebuked Iran, a Shi'ite Muslim country, for discrimination against minorities, including Christians, Jews, Sunnis and especially the Bahais, who are subject to arbitrary arrest and detention.
The resolution also said there was a "worsening situation with regard to freedom of opinion and expression and freedom of the media and noted the "targeted disqualification" of reformists in Iran's parliamentary elections.
But the resolution welcomed Iran's invitation to human rights monitors and hoped it would carry out recent legislation against torture.
"We brought forward this resolution because we believe that concerted international attention was necessary to send the message to Iran that change is necessary and that it must meet its human rights obligations." Canadian Foreign Minister Pierre Pettigrew said in a statement from Ottawa.
Photojournalist Zahra Kazemi, a Canadian citizen of Iranian descent, died in custody in Iran in June 2003, from a blow to the head, seriously damaging relations between Ottawa and Tehran.
Iran made no comment on Monday. But in November when an assembly committee passed the draft resolution, Iranian envoy Paimaneh Hasteh called the charges baseless. She accused Canada of introducing the measure in response to a domestic outcry over the death of Kazemi.
The Geneva-based U.N. Commission on Human Rights has adopted annual resolutions on Iran's human rights record from 1984 to 2001, and the assembly followed suit.
But in 2002, the draft was narrowly defeated in Geneva and not revived by the assembly until last year when Canada insisted on a measure.
Nevertheless, the vote showed a majority of nations either abstained or opposed the resolution, a trend on rights measures targeted at individual nations.
On November 24, a General Assembly committee killed resolutions denouncing rights abuses in Zimbabwe and Sudan, with South Africa arguing that Western nations imposed double standards on poor countries.
But the assembly allowed a resolution on Turkmenistan, where opposition is banned and state power is concentrated around the president.
The former Soviet republic was called on to cooperate with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, whose officials it had expelled, and grant visits by the International Committee of the Red Cross, as well as lawyers and relatives, to those in detention.
With the support of China and Pakistan, Turkmenistan's ambassador, Aksoltan Ataeva, argued against the measure, saying that her country had promised to institute the requested reforms but it was "naive to expect great results" in a short time.
But the resolution was adopted by a vote of 69 in favor, 47 against with 63 abstentions.
On the Democratic Republic of Congo, where war crimes are rampant, a resolution was adopted by 76 to 2 with a record 100 abstentions. Rwanda and Uganda, accused of intervention in the Congo, objected and the United States opposed references to the new International Criminal Court on war crimes, which it wants deleted from all resolutions.