Iranian president Hassan Rouhani
Iranian president Hassan Rouhani Reuters

The United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday condemned human rights violations in Iran, but welcomed pledges by Iran's president to improve in some areas.

The resolution on Iran was approved with 86 votes in favor, 36 against and 61 abstentions, reported Reuters.

While the resolution on Iran expressed concern at serious ongoing abuses, it acknowledged pledges by Iran's new president, Hassan Rouhani, on human rights issues such as eliminating discrimination against women and members of ethnic minorities and promoting freedom of expression and opinion.

Reuters reported that the resolution also praised Rouhani's plan to implement a civil rights charter and encouraged Iran "to take concrete action to ensure these pledges can result in demonstrable improvements as soon as possible and to uphold the government's obligations under its domestic laws and under international human rights law."

Rouhani has previously said that a strong government does not “limit the lives of the people and has claimed that he believed social networking sites such as Facebook were a welcome phenomenon.

Iranian Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi recently criticized Rouhani’s human rights record, citing a dramatic increase in executions since he took office this year and accusing the government of lying about the release of political prisoners.

The UN envoy on human rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, said in October that Iran's rights record should not be overlooked amid overtures to the West by Rouhani. He criticized Tehran for executing 724 people in 18 months, including dozens after Rouhani was elected in June.

Iran regularly executes people who are convicted of murder, rape, armed robbery, drug trafficking, adultery and espionage. In 2011, Iran put to death more than twice as many people as it did the year before.

An Iranian delegate told General Assembly members before the vote that the resolution does not reflect the actual situation inside Iran and will be counterproductive, according to Reuters.

Meanwhile, the news agency reported, a similar condemnation of Syria was adopted with 127 votes in favor, 13 against and 47 abstentions. A third resolution condemning North Korea was passed by consensus, but some states publicly disassociated themselves from the text.

The resolutions on these countries have become an annual rite. They intensify international pressure and further isolate those states but have no legal consequences. All three countries lobby hard against adoption of the resolutions, noted Reuters.