Time for Brazil to Change Its UN Vote on Iran (Commentary)
(November 25, 2012) In an oped published today in the Brazilian newspaper, O Estado de São Paulo, Camila Lissa Asano and Hadi Ghaemi discuss why Brazil should change its upcoming vote from Abstention and positively support an annual UN General Assembly resolution on the situation of human rights in Iran.
Asano is the Coordinator of Foreign Policy and Human Rights Project at the Brazilian NGO, Contectas Direitos Humanos. Ghaemi is the Executive Director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. The vote on this resolution is expected to take place in the coming week at the UN headquarters in New York.
This article is part of the Campaign and Conectas’ extensive advocacy in Latin American countries, particularly Brazil as a major emerging power, on the situation of human rights in Iran. The following is the English version of this article:
Time for Brazil to Change Its UN Vote on Iran
(Published originally in Portuguese in O Estado de São Paulo on November 25, 2012)
Camila Lissa Asano and Hadi Ghaemi
In the coming days, the UN General Assembly (GA) will vote on a resolution calling on the Iranian government to stop its massive human rights violations. Brazil has the chance and the duty to reconsider its vote on Iran this year and avoid the risk of reinforcing a message of “carte blanche” for years of abuses.
The Brazil-Iran relationship is a topic that demands a nuanced and thorough analysis, but when it comes to human rights, it is expected that Brazil adopt a principle-driven policy.
On one hand, President Dilma has partially improved Brazil’s foreign policy towards the situation of human rights in Iran by supporting, in 2011, the creation of a special UN mandate at the Human Rights Council (HRC) to document and report Iran’s violations and by expressing support for the renewal of the mandate in 2012.
On the other hand, President Dilma has maintained the practice of her predecessors and has not supported important resolutions on the situation of human rights in Iran at the GA. Since 2001, with the exception of 2003, Brazil has continued to abstain on such resolutions, even though they have great significance since they demonstrate international concerns over the worsening of the crisis in the country and Iran’s lack of cooperation with the UN system.
The question is, why might President Dilma even consider giving the Iranian government the green light on its well-documented and widespread human rights violations? Has the situation improved inside Iran at all? Certainly not.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran has produced three comprehensive reports in the past two years which note “a striking pattern of violations.” He has documented hundreds of cases of torture and abuse, a widespread culture of impunity, and a skyrocketing number of executions that claimed the lives of 670 people in 2011 alone.
Brazil is not doing the Iranian people any favor by helping to undermine efforts at the UN. The Iranian government’s crackdown on dissidents, journalists, women’s rights activists, workers, and minorities has created a highly unstable and dangerous situation.
Today the case of the female political prisoner in Iran, Nasrin Sotoudeh, should be a powerful reminder to President Dilma, herself a former political prisoner and victim of torture. Sotoudeh, a 45-year-old human rights lawyer, is serving a six-year prison sentence just for defending her clients, most of them human rights activists. On October 17, she began a hunger strike to protest her ill treatment and the denial of her rights.
As an emerging democratic power, Brazil has every responsibility to demonstrate its commitment to international human rights norms. Its upcoming vote at the GA on Iran can be a strong indication of this commitment.
Real and solid leadership should be rooted in principles. Another abstention this year, considering the lack of improvement in the human rights situation in Iran and the fact that the Iranian government has dismissed UN appeals so far, is not acceptable.
It is high time that Brazil makes clear that the human rights of Iranians are not negotiable. The eyes of the Iranian people are on Brazil, watching to see how committed it is, as a global player, to upholding international human rights standards in its foreign policy.
Camila Lissa Asani is the Coordinator of the Foreign Policy and Human Rights at Contectas Direitos Humanos. Hadi Ghaemi is the Executive Director of the International Campaign for HUman RIghts in Iran.