Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Irony in Geneva: Israel defends Arab rights

The UNHRC has an interesting mechanism where, once every four years, every nation in the UN gets reviewed as to its human rights record.
The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a unique process which involves a review of the human rights records of all 192 UN Member States once every four years. The UPR is a State-driven process, under the auspices of the Human Rights Council, which provides the opportunity for each State to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to fulfil their human rights obligations. As one of the main features of the Council, the UPR is designed to ensure equal treatment for every country when their human rights situations are assessed.
The current UPR meetings are in Geneva.

On Monday, Iran's human rights record was reviewed.

Here is a short version of what was discussed:

Interactive discussion

Number of States taking part in the interactive discussion

  • Member States: 25
  • Observer States: 28

Positive achievements

  • Access to health care and education.
  • Efforts to eradicate poverty.
  • Plans to reduce illiteracy.
  • Efforts to provide adequate housing for all citizens.
  • Investment in welfare programmes.
  • Women’s high level of education.

Issues and questions raised

  • Repression of peaceful protests, in particular in the aftermath of the 2009 presidential election.
  • Extrajudicial and arbitrary arrests and detention.
  • Torture and ill-treatments, inter alia by the police force and in detention facilities.
  • Harassment and detention of political dissents, human rights defenders and journalists.
  • Execution of juvenile offenders.
  • Independence of the judiciary
  • Trafficking of women and girls.
  • Discrimination against women and children.
  • Freedom of expression, association and assembly.
  • Discrimination against Baha’i and other religious minorities.


  • Take measures to eradicate torture and other cruel and degrading treatments.
  • Prohibit executions of persons who where under 18 at the time of the offence.
  • Consider a moratorium on the death penalty with the view of abolishing it.
  • Respect the right to a fair and impartial trial for all persons under arrest.
  • Prosecute all persons involved in human rights abuses.
  • Take measures to prevent excessive use of force by the security forces.
  • Eliminate in law and in practice all forms of discrimination.
  • Ensure equal rights for men and women, in particular in the field of access to employment.
  • Guarantee freedom of expression, of the media and of assembly.
  • Uphold constitutional provisions guaranteeing freedom of worship.
  • Ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Convention Against Torture.

Response of the concerned country

  • Arbitrary detention and punishment – Judiciary independent from the government; safeguards the rights to a fair trial. Constitution prescribes open court hearings, innocence until proven guilty, independence of judges, etc.
  • Rights of prisoners Rights to consult a lawyer, meet family members, access to information and to education. Efforts to eradicate solitary detention.
  • Freedom of expressionCannot be used to spread hatred and violence.
  • Religious freedom – Discrimination on the basis of religious belief prohibited by the Constitution. Baha’i enjoy citizenship rights, although their religion is not officially recognized.
  • Women's rights – Large number of NGOs dedicated to women's rights. Women represented in politics and in the judiciary. Efforts to prevent forced marriages.
  • Executions – Permissible under strict standards. Large number of executions related to cases of drug trafficking.
I find it interesting that no one mentioned Iran's sponsorship of known terror groups like Islamic Jihad, Hamas and Hezbollah as being a "human rights" issue, although it appears that the scope is specifically towards human rights within each country's borders.

One interesting occurrence (that I did not find documented by the UNHRC) was Israel's contribution to the debate. From Israel's MFA:
Mr. President,

Iran's wide-scale and escalating attacks on its own citizens is the type of matter that this body was designed to address. As documented most recently by UN General Assembly Resolution 64/176, of 18 December 2009, Iranians are prevented from realizing their most basic human rights and freedoms. Women, minorities - Arabs, Azeris, Baha'ais, Christians, Sunni Muslims, Jews and their defenders - are all discriminated against. There is no freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion. This is not a matter of regional politics or looking for another opportunity to remind all of us of the dangers that Iran's leaders seek to bring upon its neighbors. Instead, today's meeting in Geneva is about the threats that Iran's rulers make, day after day, upon their own people.

The work of this Council on the human rights situations in Iran needs to go far beyond today's periodic review.

The State of Israel recommends to the Islamic Republic of Iran:

1. End incitement to hatred, including statements that show contempt for General Assembly Resolution 60/7 (2005) and 61/255 (2007), on Holocaust remembrance and Holocaust denial, respectively;

2. Cease all actions as a third state proxy and refrain from financing, organizing, training, supplying, and equipping non-state actors committing acts in violation of international law;

3. Commute all death sentences, in particular all executions of political prisoners, and abolish, in practice, public executions by hanging and stoning;

4. Comply with its obligations under article 37 of the CRC and article 6 of the ICCPR and prohibit executions of persons who at the time of their offence were under the age of 18;

5. Eradicate in national legislation, and in practice, torture or other cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment;

6. Repeal or amend all discriminatory provisions against women and girls in national legislation; and,

7. Eliminate, in law and in practice, all forms of discrimination against persons belonging to religious, ethnic, linguistic or other minorities, and also LGBT.

Thank you.
The irony, noted by Al Arabiya, is that Israel stood in front of the UN Human Rights Council and defended the human rights of Arabs - while at the same time, Arab nations like Syria and Libya praised Iran's human rights record, and no Arab nation spoke up against Iran's treatment of Arabs or Sunni Muslims.