Newspaper article The Canadian Press

United Nations Official Praises Canada's Stand on Human Rights in Iran

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

United Nations Official Praises Canada's Stand on Human Rights in Iran

Article excerpt

UN official praises Canada's stand on Iran

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OTTAWA - A top United Nations official praised the Harper government Thursday as a global champion for human rights in what amounted to a strong rebuttal to critics of the government's foreign policy.

In doing so, Ahmed Shaheed, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, gave the Conservatives some ammunition against the chorus of critics who accuse them of alienating Canada at the UN and on the world stage.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird have repeatedly said Canada won't "go along to get along" at the UN, particularly when it comes to resolutions that criticize Israel.

But when it comes to the government's outspoken criticism of Iran's abysmal human rights record, Shaheed he draws much-needed support from it.

"Canada doesn't equivocate. It's clear. It takes a principled stand and it speaks out when it believes certain thresholds have been passed," Shaheed told The Canadian Press in a lengthy interview.

"I like that. I've been a lone voice in some instances."

He pointed to Baird's criticism of Iran as a "murderous regime" this week in criticizing the execution of 26-year-old Reyhaneh Jabbari, who was convicted in court for killing a man who tried to sexually assault her.

"Canada has been the leading, clearest voice on this subject," said Shaheed.

The UN Human Rights Council will conduct its periodic review of Iran's record in Geneva on Friday, and Shaheed's report gives the Tehran leadership a failing grade.

The Harper government has criticized the council, saying it provides a forum to rights-abusing countries such as Iran to unfairly point fingers at more upstanding countries such as Canada.

Canada has found itself in an "isolated position" on the council because it has been alone in voting against resolutions that criticize Israel, the Senate human rights committee has noted in recent reports examining the rights' body.

Broadly speaking, said Shaheed, there's nothing wrong with Canada swimming against the tide at the UN.

"If Canada were to join the pack, as it were, then its leadership on the issue would be totally lost," he said. "When you have a serious rights violation, you should not be waiting to see who's going to join the chorus to speak out. …

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