A United Nations committee has approved resolutions criticizing human rights conditions in Iran and Burma. The measures were similar to one passed earlier against North Korea.
The General Assembly committee dealing with human rights issues approved two measures Friday. One, a Canadian-sponsored resolution expressing concern about rights abuses in Iran, was adopted by a narrow margin.
77 of the 191 U.N. member states voted in favor, 51 against, and 46 abstained. The outcome had been in doubt until the end. Several countries opposed to the measure argued that singling out Iran for censure was evidence of a double standard on human rights, and would stiffen Tehran's resolve to resist international pressure.
Canadian Ambassador Allan Rock said he worked hard to overcome those objections, pointing to Iran's use of torture and the execution of children.
"We appealed to countries that in the government of Iran, we have an actor that is complicit in the human rights abuses and if only for the sake of the courageous people in Iran who are working against that government, we should encourage those people and reward their courage by expressing our condemnation."
Washington's deputy U.N. Ambassador Anne Patterson called the narrow margin of approval "too close for comfort". She said the vote makes clear the need for urgent reform of the U.N. human rights machinery.
"It was revealing that countries that spoke in favor of Iran, like Zimbabwe and Venezuela and Cuba, Sudan, other major human rights violators, but we're gratified with the results and we hope the Iranian people get the message that the international community is with them and support free expression and the observance of their human rights."
An Iranian delegate called the measure "politically motivated" and out of touch with reality. The committee later adopted a similar measure censuring Burma for systematic human rights violations. That resolution also criticized the continued detention of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
The measure was approved by consensus after a Cuban motion to prevent a vote was defeated by a 77 to 54 margin, with 35 abstentions.
A day earlier, the U.N. committee also criticized what was described as the "precarious human rights situation" in North Korea. That resolution received 82 votes from the 191 member states.
22 countries voted no and 62 abstained. The resolutions are non-binding and have no legal force. They are likely to come before the full general assembly as early as next month, where committee actions are routinely approved.
The committee is scheduled to take up the records of three other countries, Sudan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, next week.