UNITED NATIONS - A Canadian-led campaign chalked up a big victory over Iran at the United Nations Friday, winning significant backing to block the Islamic republic's bid to avoid censure over its human rights record.
In a 70-51 vote with 60 abstentions, a key UN General Assembly committee threw out Iran's call for countries not to even consider a long list of alleged human rights abuses.
Only last year, Iran came within two votes of having the censure sidelined with a motion that played to the distaste many UN member states have for resolutions that pick on one country - because some feel they may be next.
At the UN, Canadian Ambassador John McNee and his deputy Henri-Paul Normandin led appeals that reached out to more than 180 of the 192 member states, but focused on about 40 "swing" states considered likely to vote either way.
The Canadian-led campaign to thwart Iran also involved Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon and Minister of State Peter Kent, as well as officials in Ottawa and overseas were involved in the campaign.
The vote on the actual censure, which highlights alleged abuses that include flogging and amputations, passed 82-71 with 28 abstentions.
"With this resolution, and those presented in previous years, international attention has been drawn to the flagrant human rights abuses in Iran," Cannon said. "We continue to call on the Iranian government to take concrete steps to respect the human rights of all people in Iran."
Among the non-government groups taking part in the campaign were members of the Baha'i faith, some 30,000 of whom live in Canada. The Baha'i faith is persecuted in Iran, where it originated in the 19th century.
"This resolution lets the people suffering human rights violations know that the international community is aware and watching," said Susanne Tamas, governmental relations director for the Baha'i community in Canada.
Maryam Rajavi, president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, said the resolution "shows clearly that the medieval regime . . . should be isolated."
Canada began sponsoring the resolution annually following the 2003 murder in Iranian custody of Zahra Kazemi, a Canadian-Iranian photojournalist. Forty-two countries were co-sponsors of the measure this year, and many participated in the campaign to win Friday's vote.
The measure will go before the UN General Assembly later this year.