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
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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
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
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.