U.N. General Assembly Raps Iran on Rights Abuses
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Rebuking Iran on a series of human rights abuses, the U.N. General Assembly narrowly adopted a resolution on Monday calling on Tehran to end torture, particularly amputations.
The vote was 67 in favor, 54 against with 46 abstentions on the resolution that chastised Iran for executions, a crackdown on freedom of speech and press, and discrimination against religious minorities, such as the Bahais. Last year the Assembly voted 61-47-51 on a similar measure.
The resolution called on the Iranian government "to take all necessary steps to end the use of torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment, in particular the practice of amputation."
It expressed concern about "the deterioration of the situation with regard to freedom of opinion and expression, in particular at restrictions on the freedom of the press".
The resolution also criticized the judiciary for suspending newspapers and arresting journalists, political activists and intellectuals in the interests of national security, which the General Assembly called "a pretext to deny or restrict freedom of expression, opinion and thought."
The non-binding resolution, however, welcomed recent improvements in Iran since the election of moderate President Mohammad Khatami, including the "broad participation" in parliamentary elections earlier this year.
But the measure expressed concern at the suspension of several newspapers, arrests of journalists, cases of torture and discrimination against religious minorities.
PRIMITIVE FORMS OF TORTURE
The document was based on a report from Canadian jurist Maurice Copithorne on developments in the first six months of this year. He found executions continued at a high rate.
"That torture continues in the Islamic Republic of Iran -- and in its most primitive form -- was confirmed in the period under review," said Copithorne, who has not been allow into Iran since 1996.
"Eleven executions were held in public. In three other cases, individuals sentenced to death were pardoned from execution by the family of the victim at the execution site," Copithorne said in the report.
Stoning, which he called a "barbaric punishment", appeared to be on the decline however, he said.
Copithorne said that Iran's powerful Guardian Council, set up to ensure that legislation forms with Islam, represented a "major obstacle: to the advancement of Iranian democracy.
The closing down of the reformist press had been perhaps the biggest story in Iran itself, as well "the most evident mass suppression of a human right", he said.
At the time of the preparation of the report, about 22 newspapers and journals had been closed and an equal number of publishers and writers had been convicted, jailed or fined or served with a summons by one of the various tribunals which were exercising jurisdiction over the press.
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