AFP: Iran, under fire from Western countries over its human rights record, has decided not to seek a seat next month on the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council, a diplomat said Friday. UNITED NATIONS (AFP) — Iran, under fire from Western countries over its human rights record, has decided not to seek a seat next month on the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council, a diplomat said Friday.
Bandula Jayasekara, Sri Lanka's deputy UN ambassador, told AFP that Iran informed the Asian group at the United Nations it would not take part in the annual secret-ballot vote in the General Assembly for new members of the 47-member council.
Iran's UN mission did not immediately confirm the move and it remained unclear why the Iranians may have decided to withdraw.
But Peggy Hicks, global advocacy director for New York-based Human Rights Watch, said Tehran apparently did so "in the face of mounting global opposition due to its abysmal human rights record."
"And that shows international pressure can help put states with better records on the council," she added.
The seats, which carry terms of three years each, are allocated among regional groups.
Four seats are up for grabs in the Asian group and Iran had been one of five contenders along with Malaysia, the Maldives, Qatar and Thailand.
In 2006, the Islamic republic tried to run for a seat on the Human Rights Council (HRC) but its bid was foiled after strong lobbying by the United States.
In an open letter sent this week, Iran's human rights advocate and 2003 Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi urged the 192-member General Assembly to reject Iran's latest bid for membership.
"We hope that by rejecting the Islamic Republic of Iran's bid for membership in the Human Rights Council, you will draw the Iranian authorities' attention to their wrongdoings," she wrote.
She said Iran's admission should be conditional on implementing UN resolutions demanding an end to alleged human rights violations there.
Last February, Western powers accused Tehran of waging "bloody repression" since contested elections last year as they challenged Iran to open up to international scrutiny during an HRC meeting in Geneva.
In a public review of Iran's record at the HRC, Britain, France, the United States and other Western nations expressed deep concern about reported killings, arrests and torture in a clampdown on dissent.
The United States and Britain called on Iran to open up to visits by the UN investigator on torture and other human rights experts.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's disputed re-election last June plunged the Islamic republic into one of its worst ever political crises, with the opposition refusing to abandon the streets despite often deadly crackdowns on protests.
But backed by Cuba, Syria and Venezuela, Iran defended its legal safeguards during the HRC meeting in February and accused foreign nations of supporting "terrorist" groups on its borders.
Iranian officials also highlighted steps to improve women's access to education, health and social status, to protect children, bolster courts and better represent religious minorities.