Saudi-Iran Rivalry spills into UN Human Rights Council

By Fereshteh Sadeghi, for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iran Business News.

On March 23, the United Nations Human Rights Council voted to pass Resolution A/HCR/31/L.27, thereby extending the mandate of the special human rights rapporteur for Iran, Ahmed Shaheed (pictured). The resolution was approved by a margin of five votes.

Shaheed, whose mandate was renewed for the fifth time since his first appointment in 2011, said in a statement that the Iranian government has taken positive steps to address the matters of dispute with the UN Human Rights Council. However, he reiterated previous claims of executions, arbitrary arrests, detentions and prosecutions of Iranian citizens over the exercise of their rights.

The Islamic Republic was quick to react to the vote, with its Foreign Ministry on March 24 strongly rejecting it as politically motivated. However, what appears to have particularly irritated Iran is how three of its neighbors on the other side of the Persian Gulf — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar — voted in favor of the measure. Indeed, the Iranian Foreign Ministry noted that “Saudi Arabia itself does not respect the basic rights of its own citizens, particularly female dissidents and activists.”

This was the first time that Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar had directly voted against Iran on human rights-related matters. In the UN Human Rights Council’s previous vote on Iran, Resolution A/HRC/25/L.9 in March 2014, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, along with Kuwait, were among the countries that abstained.

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