The United Nations, with its blue flag and olive branches symbolizing peace, was built on the ruins of a world torn apart by war, with the core goal of upholding human rights and ensuring peace. Yet, today, this institution seems to be drifting away from its foundational ideals, evident in its recent decision to let the Iranian regime’s ambassador chair the Social Forum of the Human Rights Council in November 2023 in Geneva.
Understanding the gravity of this decision necessitates a deep dive into Iran’s track record. The Iranian regime has been at the epicenter of severe and systematic human rights abuses. The UN itself has condemned Iran in 69 resolutions. This is the regime that, in just the first ten months of 2023, is responsible for over 600 executions. It’s the same regime that, during the uprisings in 2019 and 2022, mercilessly snuffed out the lives of 750 and 1,500 protesters, including many dozens of women and children, respectively. These figures barely scratch the surface of the regime’s atrocious track record. Who could forget the chilling 1988 massacre where 30,000 political prisoners, mainly from the main Iranian opposition movement, the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), were sent to the gallows after kangaroo trials?
Beyond its borders, Iran’s malign influence can be felt across the Middle East. This regime’s actions are not only destabilizing for the region but threaten peace and security on a global scale. Their direct involvement in the recent Gaza conflict has resulted in death, displacement of countless innocent lives, and deepened divisions. Such interventions have consistently fanned the flames of regional tensions, pushing the Middle East into deeper cycles of conflict.
And amidst all this, the UN’s decision to hand Iran a leadership role within its Human Rights Council is not just ironic; it’s disheartening. It’s akin to a paradox where the accused is handed the judge’s gavel. This move amounts to legitimizing the regime’s actions and sends a dangerous message – that severe human rights violations, if persisted with long enough, might be overlooked by the world’s premier body meant to combat such abuses.
This was not just a procedural misstep by the UN. It’s an abdication of its moral duty and an affront to its own foundational values that millions globally hold dear. The move risks diluting the UN’s credibility and might well serve as a rallying cry for other authoritarian regimes. If Iran, with its track record, can chair a human rights forum, who’s next? This episode will undoubtedly be marked as a dark chapter in the annals of the UN’s history.
In the annals of history, where the dark deeds of tyrants are etched in indelible ink, the Iranian regime holds a notorious chapter. With a chilling legacy marred by gross human rights violations and a propensity for exporting terror far beyond its borders, the regime’s leaders stand as a stark testament to the extremes of human cruelty. Among them, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his handpicked president, Ebrahim Raisi, loomed large. Raisi, with his haunting past as a member of Tehran’s infamous ‘death commission’, bears the heavy stain of ordering the execution of thousands of prisoners of conscience, whose only ‘crime’ was to hold a conscience.
It is a travesty of justice, a mockery of our collective human ideals, to even entertain the notion of bestowing upon such individuals the honor of chairing a UN body. Instead, the annals of justice demand a different course: these leaders, bearing the weight of their malevolent actions, must stand trial before an international tribunal.As 180 renowned human rights experts, judges, jurists, Noble Laureates, and NGO’s wrote in their letter to the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, “Allowing a regime notorious for committing the 1988 massacre and daily executions and warmongering to take over a prestigious UN platform is a dagger to the heart of human rights, fuels terrorism and endangers regional and global peace. It egregiously violates the very principles upon which the United Nations has been founded and for which millions of people have sacrificed their lives. This represents a dark stain in the history of the United Nations.”
Democratic nations and advocates of human rights need to voice their dissent loud and clear. It’s imperative to challenge this decision, not just for the sake of the UN’s integrity but for the countless souls in Iran and across the world looking towards the UN as a beacon of hope and the protector of their fundamental human rights.
As the world grapples with escalating tensions and the erosion of democratic values, appeasement of regimes like Iran cannot be the answer. History has taught us that appeasing tyrants only emboldens them, paving the way for greater atrocities and promoting the culture of impunity.
We must show that principles are not for sale and that the international community remains committed to the cause of human rights. The foundation of the UN was built on the sacrifices of millions; we owe it to them, and future generations, to ensure those sacrifices weren’t in vain.
The civilized world must send a unified, resonating message – we will not stand by as human rights are trampled upon, and we will not be complicit in its degradation. The time for appeasement is over; the time for principled action is now.
Ken Blackwell is the former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Commission.
The views expressed in opinion articles are solely those of the author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by Black Community News.