One of the Iranian diplomats present at the United Nations Human Rights Council Session hours before the voting began. The Iranian diplomats knew all too well what was to come at the end of the voting. Could the smile be indicating relief at ending days of constant criticism during the Session and its side meetings?

Geneva, Switzerland–Twenty two member states of the United Nations Human Rights Council voted for a resolution against Iran, approving the appointment of a special human rights rapporteur for Iran, while 7 voted against it and 14 abstained. At the meeting, the Iranian diplomatic delegation presented its defense against the approval of the resolution by spending most of its time on attacking the violations of human rights in the US and accusing the Council of having been used, and distancing itself from the main topics of the resolution. The Iranian representative who appeared stressed even lost Brazil’s support. Voting for the resolution, Brazil rendered months of lobbying on the part of the Iranian government ineffective. Iran’s usual supporters such as Pakistan, Cuba, China, and a few other countries voted against the resolution, but Brazil on whose vote Iran had counted issued a calculated statement and defended the resolution and the appointment of the special rapporteur.

The Mood in the Session

When the topic of the resolution for Iran was brought up at the council, there was a heavy atmosphere at the meeting. Again, instead of sitting in their seats, several Iranian diplomats were walking by the entrance. There are different speculations about the Iranian diplomats. It is said that if such resolution is passed, some Foreign Ministry diplomats will not be too disappointed.

Representatives from international human rights organizations and diplomats present at the Session believe that this is one of the most devastating failures of Iranian diplomats over the past years, considering the number of countries voting for and against the resolution. Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, France, Guatemala, Hungary, Japan, Maldives, Mexico, Norway, Poland, Moldova, Korea, Senegal, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom, US, and Zambia voted in favor of the resolution.

Bangladesh, China, Cuba, Ecuador, Mauritania, Pakistan, and Russia voted against the resolution . Countries of Bahrain, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Djibouti, Gabon, Ghana, Jordan, Malaysia, Moritz, Nigeria, Uganda, Thailand and Uruguay abstained from voting. Abstentions are not counted and only votes in favor and against are considered in the outcome. Representatives from Angola, Kyrgyzstan, and Qatar did not vote at all and left the hall before the voting process began.

One of the diplomats in the Ecuador delegation told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that the head of the Ecuadorian delegation is personally embarrassed for voting against the resolution, but the decision for a negative vote had come directly from the Ecuadorian president after he spoke with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad personally.

Iran’s Failed Lobby

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other high ranking Iranian officials have contacted several countries, lobbying for voting in favor or abstaining from voting. Earlier this month, Ali Akbar Javanfekr, a top advisor to Preisdent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, traveled to Brazil and sought the Brazilian president’s help for a vote against or even an abstention. But the statement made by the Brazil representative was one of the most powerful and reasonable speeches at the Session today, welcoming the resolution and asking Iran to work with the United Nations’ monitoring mechanisms. Last month, Hadi Ghaemi, Executive Director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran and Parvin Ardalan, a women’s rights activist traveled to Brazil and in discussions and interviews with Brazilian NGO’s and media, asked for Brazil’s positive vote to the resolution. Barzil’s civil society organizations were in constant contact with the Brazilian diplomatic delegation at the Session, trying to make sure that the country’s vote to the resolution would be in favor.

An hour before the voting, the Brazilian delegation refused to say how it would vote. One of the diplomats in the Brazilian delegation told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that the reason for withholding their position was to prevent attempts at pressuring the country’s authorities. It was speculated for the past few days, however, that Brazil was regarding the resolution positively. The actual voting drama aside, votes on sensitive resolutions are usually decided in the capitals of the countries. It is said that Barack Obama made a direct appeal about Brazil’s vote on the resolution.

A western diplomat told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that the whole session was shocked with the number of positive votes and the number of countries who were expected to vote against the resolution, but instead abstained from voting, practically withdrawing their support from the Islamic Republic. The Iranian government tried to approach the resolution as a political move orchestrated by the US. A diplomat in attendance said that Iran’s continuous attack on the US, suggesting that the Human Rights Council is somehow dependent on the US, and words that were construed as insulting to those representatives present at the session, all worked against the Iranian delegation. According to this diplomat, the tone and literature of the statement read against the resolution only moments before the voting indicated that the Islamic Republic authorities had no hope for success and only wanted to read a political statement to influence the session in their favor.

A Victory for Human Rights Activists

Contrary to political statements and the attacks the Iranian delegation made against the US and western countries throughout the session, as well as accusing the Council of being used for political aims, the roles of international human rights organizations, local human rights organizations in many countries in the world, from Latin America to the US and from North Africa to Europe, is a pivotal role for convincing their countries to vote a certain way. A member of a Brazilian NGO told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that if the Brazilian President does not vote in favor of the resolution, she will have to be accountable for her conduct. The Iranian human rights activists’ professional and concentrated efforts in Europe, the US, and certain other countries, through pulling together evidence and providing detailed and reliable documentation for UN organizations, international human rights organizations, and Council member states is one of the most important factors in mobilizing the positive vote on the resolution.

Of course, the Islamic Republic of Iran’s extremely weak diplomacy, their inability to continue denying and covering up the critical human rights situation, the rising awareness of the nations and governments of the world about what is taking place in Iran, and the Islamic Republic’s lack of cooperation with the different mechanisms of the United Nations, and finally, the Islamic Republic’s lack of regard for its international obligations all played an important role in gaining the attention of UN’s member states.

A diplomat present at the Session told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that the Iranian delegation’s repeated diplomatic mistake is that during such meetings they constantly try to use the anti-American sentiments of certain Middle Eastern or Latin American countries, and in order to divert their statements from answering the cases raised against Iran, they constantly attack the US and make generalized statements about violations of human rights in the US. An individual close to the Lebanese delegation was one of the people who was very upset after the resolution passed. “The US itself is a violator of human rights, and why shouldn’t such a resolution be passed for the US? Iran is not the only country that violates human rights. The other countries must be accountable, too,” he told the Campaign.

A member of an international NGO, who has been involved in human rights negotiations told the Campaign: “The issue is that Iran constantly criticizes [the United States of] America but Iran, Nonaligned Movement states, or Islamic countries, have never demanded a Special Session, resolutions, or have ever requested the Special Rapporteur for [the United States of] America. For example, the same Pakistan or other countries, which for various reasons always support Iran in the sessions, have rejected a Special Session for [the United States of] America.” Meanwhile, a person close to the American team told the Campaign: “Honestly, we will welcome it. Why not? But, none of these countries have shown serious intentions for such a task in the past few years, except for verbal attacks and propaganda.” In the periodical review reports during the four-week meeting of the Human Rights Council, international human rights organizations expressed a lot of criticism about the performance and the human rights situation in the US, including the situation of execution in that country. The American delegation representatives also upon hearing these criticisms requested civil society organizations to continue the talks for the improvement and change of the current situation.

Another interesting point is the highly emotional atmosphere dominant after the passage of the resolution. When the voting began, on two big screens members’ votes were shown in green color (positive), red color (negative), and black color (for those who left the room or abstained). Within less than ten seconds, green colors increased so much that prompted many surprised exclamations. Twenty two votes was the upper limit of what was imagined during the last few days. The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran believes that because of the intense negotiations and various meetings that took place during the last few days, several opposed voted were changed to abstain votes. The image of human rights NGO members who were congratulating each other was an interesting part of the Iran resolution vote. Informed sources said that such a climate has seldom existed during any Sessions or similar voting processes.