Apart from the upcoming Universal Periodic Review of India at the Human Rights Council (HRC), Indian diplomacy is faced with an additional challenge as Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has demanded a special session of the HRC on Iran’s ongoing crackdown against peaceful protesters. In a series of social media messages Ms. Baerbock announced on October 26 that Germany would push for a special sitting of the global human rights body to discuss the current human rights status of Iran.
“The brutal repression must not remain without consequences for those responsible. Evidence must be collected for this. Among other things, we support a special human rights council [session] and will support NGOs in documenting crimes. We will expand our projects in the area of human rights, among other things, and provide places in our protection programmes for particularly vulnerable Iranian people from the areas of culture, science, media and civil society,” said Ms. Baerbock.
The protests in Iran began after the reported custodial killing of Kurdish-Iranian activist Mahsa Amini on September 16. The protest that broke out in this backdrop has continued across the country since then. Latest in the list of casualties was Iran’s celebrity chef Mehrshad Shahidi who too was reportedly killed in custody during last week. India, a member of the HRC, has however refused to condemn the violence against unarmed protesters so far.
The Hindu has learned that the Indian side believes the timing of the German Minister’s demand for a special sitting of the HRC has come at an inconvenient phase as the session for the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) will be held during November 7 to 18. Apart from India, the session for UPR will also cover Bahrain, Ecuador, Tunisia, Morocco, Indonesia, Finland, the United Kingdom, Algeria, the Philippines, Brazil, Poland, the Netherlands, and South Africa. Sources indicated that given the fact that 14 countries will undergo UPR during the session, it is very difficult to squeeze in a discussion on Iran’s human rights scenario.
Western bloc’s support
Germany will require the support of the Western bloc at the HRC (approximately 17 countries) to force the global body to have a debate and as a leading power, it is most likely to receive such a support. However, Germany has not followed up Ms. Baerbock’s announcement with further actions, adding to a sense of suspense here about the next move from the Western bloc on Iran.
A high decibel Western campaign against Iran at the HRC is expected to exert pressure on India as a similar situation was evident during the recent western bid at the HRC to have a special discussion on the status of Uighur Muslims of Xinjiang in China which was narrowly defeated. While the Western members voted for the special discussion, 19 voted against and 11, including India, voted against the move to have a discussion on Xinjiang.
During the campaign to corner China on the Uighur issue, the Ministry of External Affairs had explained that India does not favour “country specific” discussion at the HRC. It is understood that the Indian side may prepare along a similar argument if Iran is cornered at the HRC, though it may require New Delhi to state its position on the state-led violence against the protesters in Iran, which is an important energy supplier to the Indian economy and a strategic partner which is home to the India-backed Chahbahar port. Notably, during the attempt for a special sitting on Xinjiang, India stayed away, while in fact calling upon Beijing to “respect and guarantee human rights” of the Uighur Muslims.
Ultimately, however, Ms. Baerbock’s demand for a special session of the HRC on the crackdown in Iran depends on the efficacy of German diplomacy as Berlin will have to get most of the important members of the Western bloc to deliver on her stated goals.