Some 56 countries on Tuesday signed up to a declaration calling on Iran to investigate a deadly crackdown on street protests following the contested presidential election a year ago.
Norway and the United States have spearheaded a bid at the Geneva forum to chastise Iran for its violent suppression of demonstrations, including arrests and executions of dissidents, following presidential elections a year ago.
Some 55 states from across all regions -- half of them European Union (EU) members -- have endorsed the statement, which calls on Iran to uphold fundamental freedoms of expression, of the media and of assembly, diplomats say.
As Norway's ambassador Bente Angell-Hansen began to read out the text, Iran's ambassador Hamid Baeidi Nejad interrupted, invoking procedural grounds to object to being singled out.
Pakistan, speaking for the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), as well as African and non-aligned countries, swiftly backed Iran. The objection was to Iran's record, a "country-specific situation", being addressed under an agenda item on a landmark human rights meeting held in Vienna in 1993.
"Allowing this to happen ... is leading to a repeat of the practice of the Human Rights Commission where 'naming and shaming' was the name of the game and led eventually to the demise of the Commission," Pakistan's envoy Zamir Akram said, referring to the Council's largely discredited predecessor body.
Belgium's ambassador Alex Van Meeuwen, who currently chairs the forum, said that as long as a text addressed a relevant human rights situation it was admissible. He adjourned the session for several hours to allow private negotiations.
Marking one year anniversary
The United States and Norway have heavily lobbied countries to endorse the statement, according to diplomats and activists.
"We cannot let this Human Rights Council session go by without marking the one year anniversary of these events this month," reads the statement.
The 2009 post-election street protests, the worst unrest since the Islamic republic was founded in 1979, were put down violently by the Revolutionary Guards. Mass detentions followed. Two people were hanged and scores of detainees remain in jail.
The statement would add to pressure after extended sanctions agreed by the U.N. Security Council last week to punish Iran for what Western countries say is a nuclear weapons program.
It voices concern at "events including the violent suppression of dissent, detention and executions without due process of law, severe discrimination against women and minorities including people of the Baha'i faith and restrictions on freedom of expression and religion."
The Human Rights Council, dominated by developing nations wary of interference in their own affairs, rarely "names and shames" states. The main exception is Israel, regularly condemned for alleged abuses in its occupied territories.
“Fraudsters must go on trial”
Earlier on Tuesday Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi called for those who "committed fraud" in last year's presidential poll to be prosecuted, as he vowed to keep the anti-government movement alive.
"A fair trial of those who committed the election fraud, tortured and killed protesters must be held," Mousavi said, in a statement to mark the anniversary of the June 12, 2009 election.
Mousavi, along with the opposition's other key leader Mehdi Karroubi, has steadfastly rejected the re-election of Ahmadinejad in what they said was the result of a "fraudulent" election.
In the statement released on his website Kaleme.com, Mousavi, who was once a pillar of the Islamic regime but has turned into a bitter critic, announced a "new charter" of policy aims for the opposition movement.
He called for an "end to the involvement of police and military forces in politics, the independence of the judiciary, and prosecution of those in plainclothes," referring to Islamist vigilantes.
Mousavi urged authorities to release political prisoners and lift restrictions on political parties, and social movements.
He criticized the siege of Karroubi on Sunday by pro-regime supporters at the house of Grand Ayatollah Yousef Sanaie in the holy city of Qom, central Iran.
"Attacking people, university students, offices of Grand Ayatollah Sanaie and Montazeri, and insulting Mr. Karroubi show the level of crisis among the attackers," Mousavi said.
"Those who ordered and executed the attack on sources of emulation will only help destroy the legitimacy of the regime," he said, referring to the Shiite religious leaders.