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A boy gestures towards damaged buildings after what opposition activists said was shelling by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad at Daria near Damascus November 25, 2012. (Fadi al-Derani/Shaam News Network//REUTERS)
A boy gestures towards damaged buildings after what opposition activists said was shelling by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad at Daria near Damascus November 25, 2012. (Fadi al-Derani/Shaam News Network//REUTERS)

UN committee condemns Syria, Iran for human rights abuses Add to ...

A UN General Assembly committee on Tuesday condemned Syria and Iran for widespread human rights abuses, but both Damascus and Tehran dismissed the separate votes as politically motivated.

The draft resolution on Syria, which was co-sponsored by Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United States, Britain, France and other Arab and Western states, received 132 votes in favor – 10 more than a similar resolution last year received – along with 12 against and 35 abstentions.

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The resolution on Iran, which was drafted by Canada and co-sponsored by other Western countries, received 83 votes in favor, 31 against and 68 abstentions.

The increased number of yes votes for both resolutions shows waning support for Tehran and Damascus in New York, envoys said.

Both resolutions were passed by the 193-nation assembly’s Third Committee, which focuses on human rights, and will be put to formal votes next month at plenary sessions of the General Assembly. They are both expected to pass with similar margins.

Syrian UN Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari dismissed the resolution against his country as an attempt by “Western states to interfere, and we condemn this.”

He also accused Qatar, which has supported the rebels seeking to toppled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the 20-month-old insurgency, of aiding and abetting Israel against the Palestinians.

Mr. Ja’afari repeated Syria’s oft-stated accusation that Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Libya and Turkey have been arming and financially supporting the rebels, an allegation all have denied.

Western diplomats in New York, however, say privately that the Saudis and Qataris are almost certainly aiding the rebels, and possibly other countries as well.

Iranian Ambassador Mohammad Khazaee dismissed the resolution against Tehran as based on unconfirmed allegations and an attempt to meddle in the internal affairs of Iran.

The Syria resolution said the UN assembly “strongly condemns the continued widespread and systematic gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms by the Syrian authorities and the Government-controlled ‘shabiha’ militia.”

It blamed the Syrian government and allied forces for “the use of heavy weapons, aerial bombardments and force against civilians, massacres, arbitrary executions, extrajudicial killings, the killing and persecution of protesters, human rights defenders and journalists, (and) arbitrary detention.”

It also condemned “any human rights abuses by armed opposition groups,” though the principal target of condemnation was clearly the government, not the rebels.

The resolution recalled UN human rights chief Navi Pillay’s repeated suggestion that “crimes against humanity are likely to have been committed” in Syria. It called for “accountability” for those guilty of human rights abuses.

The resolution on Iran voiced “deep concern at serious ongoing and recurring human rights violations in the Islamic Republic of Iran relating to, inter alia, torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, including flogging and amputations.”

It also criticized the “continuing alarming high frequency of the carrying-out of the death penalty (in Iran) in the absence of internationally recognized safeguards, including an increase in the number of public executions.”

The resolution also condemned the “increased persecution and human rights violations against persons belonging to unrecognized religious minorities, particularly members of the Baha’i faith and their defenders.”

The U.N. special rapporteur for Iran said last month that members of the Baha’i community were the most persecuted Iranian religious minority.

Such resolutions on Iran, North Korea and Myanmar – and, since last year, Syria – have become an annual ritual.

The resolution on Iran received more yes votes than a year ago, when a similar text was approved with 80 in favor, 44 against and 57 abstentions.

Last year’s Syria resolution received 122 votes in favor, 13 against and 41 abstentions.

Earlier on Tuesday the committee adopted a resolution that condemned human rights abuses in North Korea.

Also Tuesday, The UN nuclear watchdog said information stolen from one of its former servers had been posted on a hacker website and it was taking “all possible steps” to ensure its computer systems and data were protected.

The stolen information was contained in a statement by a group with an Iranian-sounding name calling for an inquiry into Israel’s nuclear activities. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is investigating Iran’s nuclear program.

The IAEA said the theft concerned “some contact details related to experts working” with the Vienna-based agency but it did not say who might have been behind the action.

A Western diplomat said the stolen data was not believed to include information related to confidential work carried out by the IAEA. One of the agency’s tasks is preventing the spread of nuclear weapons.

The statement posted in the name of Parastoo (which in Farsi means swallow, the bird, and can also be a woman’s name) included a large number of e-mail addresses and called for the people to whom they belonged to sign a petition for an “open” IAEA investigation into Israel’s Dimona reactor.

The statement dated Nov. 25 and headlined “Parastoo Hacks IAEA” said: “Israel owns a practical nuclear arsenal, tied to a growing military body.”

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