Vaclav Balek, president of the Human Rights Council, announced the appointment of Ali Bahreini of Iran to chair its 2023 Social Forum held in Geneva in early November.
Ali Bahreini is Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, and as of this week, the chairperson of the UN Human Rights Council. This decision has created outrage among many human rights watchdogs considering it comes within a week of the country’s regime executing 2 men for charges of blasphemy, not to mention the many executions following the anti-government unrest.
Executions and arrests for “blasphemy” have always been under serious criticism by many, if not all human rights watchdogs for being against the freedom of expression. Even before the executions of Yousef Mehrad and Sadrollah Fazeli-Zare (the aforementioned men charged with blasphemy), Iran has built up an executed pile of 203 of its citizens just this year.
Many of the trials that lead to these executions are accused to be unfair by several Human rights watchdogs. Other executions happened for drug charges which should never have happened under international law. Of all executions confirmed by the human rights organization ‘Iran Human Rights’, only 12% were announced by the regime or its authorities.
The UNHRC Social Forum is a convention of United Nations members, non-government organizations, and other international organizations. This forum focuses on the use of science and technology in the promotion of human rights.
The 2023 Social Forum isn’t the first UN body where Iran won a prominent role. In 2021, it was elected to the Commission on the Status of Women, though it was later revoked facing mass protests inside Iran against the government. The “criminal regime” was also recently elected to the U.N. Commission on Crime Prevention.
The stopping of Russia from getting elected by the USA and its allies demonstrates that blocking Human Rights abusers from top positions in Human Rights Councils is possible. Many have criticized the UNHRC and its members for allowing Iran to be voted into this position, leaving open the doors of speculation regarding the value of lives in the Middle East as compared to East Europe.
It is not just the Middle East, just last October, Sudan was re-elected to the UNHRC for a second three-year term. Sudan’s foreign ministry called this a “well-deserved victory.” However, a year before this re-election, ~120 people were killed during the anti-coup protests that started the civilian-led government was overthrown by the Sudanese military in October 2021.
The election of a recent and prominent human rights abuser to a top position at a UNHRC event should raise many questions on the way of election to these positions, and the criteria for qualification for the elections.