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UN embraces Iranian human rights abusers at refugee forum

Dec 15, 2023 | Alana Schetzer

President of Islamic Republic of Iran Seyyed Ebrahim Raisi at UN Headquarters in New York on September 18, 2023 (Image: Shutterstock)
President of Islamic Republic of Iran Seyyed Ebrahim Raisi at UN Headquarters in New York on September 18, 2023 (Image: Shutterstock)

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was set to attend the United Nations Global Refugee Forum, held in Geneva, Switzerland, on December 13. It was billed as the “world’s largest gathering in support of refugees and the communities that host them.”

Raisi has of course never “supported” any refugees, but has certainly created vast numbers of them through the Iranian regime’s brutal oppression, violence and judicial murders. Raisi was also allegedly responsible for the massacre of between 5,000 and 30,000 political prisoners in 1988, as one of four members of the so-called ‘Death Committee’ who carried out a fatwa issued by then-Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. The political prisoners were executed for supporting the opposition, the People’s Mujahedin Organisation of Iran, and were thus deemed to be “waging war on God.”

However, just hours before his plane was meant to land in Geneva, Raisi announced he had cancelled. Iran was, however, still represented at the forum, led by Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.

It’s speculated that Raisi pulled out due to concerns that he could have been arrested. In the days before the forum, a legal complaint was filed against him in Switzerland, urging Swiss federal public prosecutor Andreas Muller to arrest and charge Raisi with crimes against humanity. The complaint, which is in relation to the 1988 massacre, details Raisi’s alleged involvement in “genocide, torture, extrajudicial executions and other crimes against humanity.”

Before Raisi cancelled, Iranian human rights groups across the world had expressed their horror over his involvement in the forum. The National Council of Resistance of Iran stated that it’s “an insult to human rights, the sacred right to asylum, and all the values for which contemporary humanity has sacrificed tens of millions of lives.” They added that Raisi’s presence at the forum would “perpetuate… the culture of impunity, and only embolden… the regime to further massacre the Iranian people”.

Iran’s attendance at the forum comes just two months after Teheran ramped up its execution program, with 127 men, women and children having been executed since October 7. Norway-based Iran Human Rights (IHR) has accused the regime of using the Hamas massacre in Israel and the ongoing Israel-Hamas war that followed as cover to carry out the enormous increase in executions and to extract revenge on dissidents.

IHR reported that, as of early November, 604 Iranians had been executed in 2023 – the highest number in eight years. IHR noted that nine people were executed in just one day. People have been executed for alleged crimes of murder, drugs, and even adultery.

“The international community must react to more than 600 executions in 10 months – that’s two state murders a day,” IHR Director Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam said. “Silence is indirect consent to these crimes.”

The UN has a long history of embracing and supporting human rights abusers; in late October, it appointed Iran as chair of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) Social Forum.

Moreover, following an election by secret ballot in October, 15 new member nations will join the UNHRC in January. Among them are China (accused of using forced labour, torture, physical and sexual abuse, forced family separation, mass surveillance, internment camps, and repression of culture and religion); Burundi (accused of targeted killings, kidnappings, gender-based violence, torture, arbitrary arrests, and strictly controlled media); Ghana (accused of politically-motivated killings, disappearances, torture, arbitrary detention, and denial of a fair public trial), and Côte d’Ivoire (accused of forced disappearance, torture, harsh and life-threatening prison conditions, restricted freedom of the press and prosecution of journalists, female genital mutilation, gender-based violence and violence against LGBTIQ+ people).

Iran’s notorious ‘morality police’ continues to pose a danger to Iranian women; in late October, 16-year-old Armita Geravand died after being assaulted by the ‘morality police’ for not wearing a hijab. Geravand remained in a coma for about a month after the assault, and was later declared brain dead. Just weeks before Geravand was assaulted, the Iranian Government passed a new draconian law that imposed even harsher penalties against women who breached the country’s hijab rules; women now face up to 10 years in jail and a fine of up to 360m rials (US$7,302).

IHR’s Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam said the increase in executions is directly linked to the 2022 uprising and protests, which the regime uses to create fear and insecurity among the population.

Raisi has previously defended his role in the 1988 mass executions, saying: “If a judge, a prosecutor has defended the security of the people, he should be praised.” Following his elevation to the role of president in 2021, the United Nations called for an investigation into Raisi’s role in the 1988 massacre. Yet, only two years later, the United Nations was willing to allow him to address its prestigious refugee forum, where actual refugees – victims of state-sponsored violence, oppression and killings – will gather. And Iran will still be there, represented by another high-ranking member of the regime.

The fact that Raisi cancelled is immaterial; he should never have been allowed to attend in the first place. It speaks volumes about the integrity – or lack thereof – of the UN as an institution that is meant to represent and defend the world’s most vulnerable people.

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