On the fence

Brazil abstains again on UN resolution on human rights in Iran

12/19/2016 iran

Brazil has abstained once again in a vote on the human rights situation in Iran, this time on a resolution adopted by the Plenary of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. The resolution was passed today, December 19, by 85 votes in favor, 35 against and 63 abstentions.

The country repeated the position it took in November, when the same document was voted in the Third Committee of the General Assembly – a body that specifically addresses human rights issues and social and humanitarian affairs. At the time, the resolution was also approved by the same vote count.

Brazil has abstained in this vote since 2001 (with the exception of 2003), despite repeated requests by Brazilian and Iranian organizations for it to change its position.

The vote by the country on this issue contradicts previous statements made by Foreign Minister José Serra. In 2010, when he was a candidate for the presidency of Brazil, the current minister José Serra described Iran as a “fascist and brutal dictatorship” and urged his then opponent Dilma Rousseff to address the bilateral relations of the government of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva with the country.
Double standards
The contradictions of the Foreign Ministry prompted Conectas to request, shortly after the vote in the UN, that Serra be summoned before the Foreign Relations and National Defense committees of the Senate and the Lower House of Congress. The organization is asking for the minister to take part in a public hearing to explain this latest abstention.
In an official petition submitted to the two committees, Conectas points out that the Foreign Minister, upon accepting the job, swore that respect for human rights would be one of the mainstays of his foreign policy – as determined by article 4 of the Federal Constitution.
See the petitions sent to the presidents of the Lower House Committee (here) and the Senate Committee (here).
Conectas also noted that, in May 2015, the Senate Committee summoned the then Foreign Minister Mauro Vieira to explain why Brazil abstained on another resolution on Iran proposed in the UN Human Rights Council. In July 2015, the Lower House Committee staged a hearing on the position taken by Brazil in a session of the Human Rights Council, including its abstention in a vote on Iran.

On both occasions, like now, the federal government justified the vote by claiming it had information that indicated progress on the human rights situation in the country.

According to Iranian human rights organizations, however, the promises have yet to be realized and the situation remains alarming, with no substantive improvements.

The latest report by the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, published in September, estimates that between 966 and 1054 people were executed in the country in 2015 – the highest number of the past 20 years. There are no accurate numbers because no United Nations special rapporteur has been able to visit Iran since 2005, despite the standing invitation to UN experts it issued in 2002.

According to Jefferson Nascimento, adviser to the Foreign Policy program at Conectas, “the position of Brazil is groundless and the country ought to give a public explanation about its insistence on not taking a stand against the serious violations in Iran”. He also said that “the country must not prioritize trade relations at the expense of the constitutional obligation to base foreign relations on human rights”.
In October, the highest Iranian human rights official, Mohammad Larijani, was received behind closed doors by the Minister of Justice. At the time, Conectas said that the lack of transparency surrounding the meeting raised doubts about Brazil’s position in the UN.

Organizations highlight the importance of the resolution 

Conectas and another 27 civil society organizations from around the world called for support for the resolution in a joint letter addressed to United Nations Member States. The letter mentions notorious violations of international human rights protection standards, including the fact that Iran currently has the world’s highest per capita execution rate.

“The approval of the resolution will convey to all governments, as well as to the people of Iran, that the international community is genuinely invested in human rights advancement in Iran,” reads the document.

Click here to read the letter in full.