Israel is not reading too much significance into Brazil’s vote against Iran at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva last week, even though it has been very rare in recent years for Brazil to vote against Iran in international forum.

Brazil was one of 22 countries that voted last week in favor of appointing a special rapporteur to monitor the human rights situation in Iran, and to report its findings to the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly. Seven countries voted against the measure, and 14 abstained.

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Brazil raised the ire of many in the West last year when, along with Turkey, it proposed a nuclear fuel swap that would have staved off significant UN Security Council sanctions against Iran. Over the last decade, the two countries developed extensive economic ties, with trade reaching some $1.2 billion in 2010.

Officials in Jerusalem said the vote did not signify a change in policy on Iran by Brazil’s new President Dilma Rousseff, who replaced Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva some three months ago. Rather, the officials said, this was a very small sign of a possible change.

The officials said that the US was a key supporter of the UNHRC move, and Brazil’s vote was more likely an attempt to win favor with the US at a time when President Barack Obama was in Brazil than any significant change in Brazil’s relationship with Iran.

The officials also said that the Brazilian government has come under some internal pressure regarding its friendship with Iran, and there was domestic criticism in Brazil in recent weeks on how Iran puts down its internal opposition.


Shirin Ebadi, the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, wrote Rousseff and urged Brazil to support the measure, saying it “is a strong message of support to the Iranian people from the international community that they are not forgotten, and gross violations of their rights will not be tolerated.”

The Brazilian president also received a second letter, this one signed by 180 women’s rights activists asking Brazil to support the resolution.

Rousseff, who was tortured in her youth at the hands of Brazil’s dictatorship, has shown a greater sensitivity to Iran’s human rights abuses than her predecessor.

Iran rights advocates and international groups have sponsored the appointment of a special rapporteur to Iran since 2009, when Iranian authorities launched a brutal crackdown against the opposition following the tainted June 2009 presidential election.

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