The U.N. General Assembly responded today to longstanding criticism of its "selective outrage" over human rights violations by adopting five resolutions expressing "deep concern" over continuing rights violations in Afghanistan, Chile, El Salvador, Guatemala and Iran.
A number of delegates on each side of the East-West political divide complained that the scope of the U.N. human rights debate was still far too selective, but the inclusion of Iran and Afghanistan on a list of governments singled out for investigation and criticism marked the first time that the assembly had gone beyond right-wing regimes in Latin America in spotlighting its human rights targets.
In each of the five cases, the resolutions stemmed from continuing investigations by a representative of the U.N. Human Rights Commission and the reports they submitted to the assembly.
The draft on Afghanistan, which emerged from a report by investigator Felix Ermacora of Austria, was adopted by a vote of 80 to 22, with 40 abstentions. Those voting against it were the Soviet Union and its allies.
The resolution implicitly criticized Moscow for its role in Afghanistan by echoing the report's charge that the government, "with heavy support from foreign troops, acts with great severity against opponents or expected opponents of the regime without any respect for human rights obligations."
Neither the report nor the resolution made reference to allegations of violations by rebel groups, but both called on "all parties to the conflict" to apply the norms of humanitarian law.
The report on Iran, submitted by Andres Heuilar of Venezuela, was far more circumspect in citing only "allegations" of violations. Both the resolution and the report concluded that the allegations of arbitrary executions, torture and illegal detention could not be dismissed and appealed to Iran to cooperate with the ongoing investigation.
Despite its cautious language, the resolution on Iran attracted only 53 votes -- most of them from western and Latin American nations -- while 38 countries opposed it and 45 abstained.
The Soviet Union, which had joined the United States in voting for the text in committee, did not participate in the final tally today. Only seven African nations, two Islamic countries (Iraq and Jordan) and three other Asian states joined the majority, while most of the 20 Islamic states voted against the resolution.
Diplomats attributed the cool reaction to fear of Iranian displeasure, limited lobbying and Islamic reluctance to join in a condemnation of a system based on Koranic law, as well as to the resolution's singling out of members of the Bahai faith as victims of Iranian persecution.
The resolution on El Salvador, milder than in previous years, was adopted by a vote of 100 to 2 (Chile and Guatemala against), with 42 abstentions, including both the United States and El Salvador.
The resolution on Guatemala, which noted "with satisfaction" the coming installation of a new civilian government and constitution scheduled for Jan. 14, was adopted by a vote of 91 to 8 with 47 abstentions.