A U.N. committee on human rights approved a resolution Thursday urging Iran to stop its widespread use of arbitrary detention and expressing serious concern at its "alarmingly high" use of the death penalty.
The General Assembly's Human Rights Committee adopted the resolution by a vote of 85-30, with 68 abstentions, after reviewing detailed reports filed by its special rapporteur. It is virtually certain to be approved by the 193-member world body next month.
General assembly resolutions are not binding for member states.
Last November an identical resolution was passed with a similar voting pattern, although this year the resolution got two additional votes.
This year the report to the committee detailing Iran's violations was prepared by a new special rapporteur, Javaid Rehman.
The resolution "strongly urges" Iran to eliminate discrimination against women in law and practice and expresses "serious concern about ongoing severe limitations and restrictions on the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief."
It singles out violations including harassment, intimidation and persecution against religious minorities including Christians, Gonabadi Dervishes, Jews, Sufi Muslims, Sunni Muslims, Yarsanis, Zoroastrians and members of the Baha'i faith — and urges the release of religious practitioners including Baha'i leaders.
The resolution, sponsored by Canada, also calls on Iran to end "widespread and serious restrictions" including on freedom of assembly of political opponents, human rights defenders, labor leaders, environmentalists, academics, filmmakers, journalists, bloggers, social media users and others.
While the resolution welcomes the elimination of the death penalty for some drug-related offenses, it expresses serious concern at the "alarmingly high frequency" of Iran's use of the death penalty, including against minors.
Iran's deputy U.N. ambassador, Eshagh Al Habib, dismissed the resolution as a "political charade," saying promoting the human rights of Iranians "is not simply a legal and moral responsibility, but a paramount requirement of national security."
"Similar to any other country, deficiencies may exist, and we are determined to address them," he said. "However, it is not for those who traditionally, historically and practically supported colonialism, slavery, racism and apartheid to lecture Iranians on human rights."
Alluding to the resolution's sponsor and more than 30 co-sponsors, including the United States, Al Habib alleged that threatening cuts in financial and development funds to get votes "further exposes the dishonesty of these self-assured champions of human rights."
Iran routinely dismisses international criticism over its human rights record and has not allowed UN officials to visit the country to conduct fact-finding missions.
Ambassador Abdallah Al-Mouallimi of Saudi Arabia, a regional rival of Iran, said, "The Iranian people continue to suffer under a regime that does not respect human rights, that denies freedoms, that persecutes religious and racial minorities." He called on Iran not "give shelter to terrorists."