8152nd Security Council Meeting: Situation in Middle East

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05-Jan-2018 01:38:14
Security Council discusses deadly protests across Iran amid accusations of abusing entity’s platform to meddle in states’ internal affairs at 8152nd meeting.

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Recent protests sweeping Iran had resulted in more than 20 deaths, a top United Nations political official told the Security Council today, as the body met for an emergency session on the matter despite objections from some representatives who argued that the Council was not the proper forum for such a debate.

Demonstrations began on 28 December 2017 with hundreds of Iranians initially gathering in a largely peaceful manner, chanting slogans against economic hardships, said Tayé-Brook Zerihoun, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, in a briefing to the Council. Subsequently, rallies spread to other urban centres, as well as rural areas, where protesters expressed disappointment at slow or limited change in social structures and political freedoms, and criticized what they viewed as the privileged position of the clergy and elements of the country’s security establishment.

As the protests escalated, some turned violent, said Mr. Zerihoun, who added that videos posted on social media platforms showed the beating of protesters, as well as the burning of Government offices, banks and religious centres. More than 1,000 protesters were said to have been detained although many may have since been released.

With a very limited United Nations presence on the ground, the Secretariat could not confirm or deny the authenticity of the images that had been broadcast, nor the extent of the violence, he said, adding: “However, we have received reports that the police, rather than military forces, were responding to the protests.”

The representative of the United States said the demonstrations taking place in Iran were a fundamental expression of human rights, and a powerful exhibition of brave people who were so fed up with their oppressive regime that they were willing to risk their lives in protest. The Iranian regime’s contempt of the rights of its people had been widely documented, she stressed.

The proper role of human rights in the Council had been debated, and some colleagues believed it had no place in the Council, she noted, yet, human rights were not the gift of Governments, but rather the inalienable right of the people themselves. Every United Nations Member State was sovereign, but that could not be used as a shield when a State denied its people human rights and fundamental freedoms, she emphasized. The Iranian people were rising up and asking for something no legitimate Government could deny them.

Iran’s representative said that there was a long history of United States bullying at the United Nations and the case of the Iranian protest was a preposterous example of interference in the purely internal affairs of a nation. “This is nothing but another desperate attempt by the United States Administration to escape, as it has lost every shred of moral, political and legal authority and credibility in the eyes of the whole world,” he said.

“It is unfortunate that despite the resistance on the part of some of its members, this Council has allowed itself to be abused by the current United States Administration in holding a meeting that falls outside the scope of its mandate,” he stressed. While the United States accused Iran of “suppressing” protesters, one could only gasp at the hypocrisy when recalling that Occupy Wall Street protesters were beaten and dragged by United States policemen, or when National Guardsmen fired on and killed peaceful student protesters at Kent State University in 1968, as well as other examples.

The representative of the Russian Federation said that the United States was abusing the Security Council platform and questioned why it was undermining the authority of the Council as the main body for maintaining peace and security. The real reason to convene the meeting was a veiled attempt to use the current moment to undermine the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear programme, he underscored.

The references heard today regarding Article 34 of the Charter were completely inappropriate and it was unacceptable to use bogus pretexts to include internal issues in the Council’s agenda, he said, stressing that the Council should not be involved in destabilizing Iran. Following the current logic, it should have held a meeting after the events in the United States city of Ferguson, Missouri.

Other delegates shared that sentiment, including Bolivia’s representative, who said that the Council was witnessing a blatant attempt to push forward issues that did not fall within its purview. China’s representative stressed that the Council’s primary responsibility was maintaining international peace and security and that the body should not be the venue for discussing the human rights situation of any country, while the representative of Equatorial Guinea added that issues related to human rights must be dealt with in the relevant forums established by the United Nations, including the Human Rights Council and the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) of the General Assembly.

However, the representative of the United Kingdom stressed that no one had forced Iran onto the agenda, rather, the Council was empowered through Article 34 to investigate any dispute that might give rise to international friction. Too often, Iran’s security interests were pursued in a way that destabilized others, he said, pointing out that those regional activities threatened international peace and security.

Sweden’s representative underlined that although her country had reservations about the convening of the meeting, human rights violations in Iran must be separated from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, whose continued implementation was crucially important for ensuring the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme and for strengthening the global non-proliferation architecture.

Also speaking today were the representatives of France, Kuwait, Peru, Netherlands, Poland, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia and Kazakhstan.

The meeting began at 3:08 p.m. and ended at 4:47 p.m.
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