Iranian brought to the gallows in the northern city of Nowshahr on April 15, 2014. Iran put to death at least 369 people and likely several hundreds of others — more people than any country in the world except China. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recently rebuked Iranian President Hassan Rouhani for failing to improve human rights, including its high level of executions.
GENEVA, April 23 – The United Nations today elected the Islamic Republic of Iran and more than a dozen other repressive regimes to top committees charged with protecting women’s rights and with overseeing the work of human rights organizations, according to an exclusive report by UN Watch, a non-governmental Geneva-based human rights group.
Human rights activists are expressing outrage.
“Today is a black day for human rights,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch. “By empowering the perpetrators over the victims, the UN harms the cause of human rights, betrays its founding principles, and undermines its own credibility.”
“Civil society loses as repressive states win election,” said the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR).
Despite the sharp condemnation of Iran’s human rights record by UN chief Ban Ki-moon — who recently reported how women in Iran are “subject to discrimination, entrenched both in law and in practice” and how “women’s rights activists continue to face arrest and persecution” — the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in New York today elected Iran to a four-year term on its 45-nation Commission on the Status of Women, the principal intergovernmental body dedicated to protecting women’s rights. Equitorial Guinea was among other dictatorships also named to the global gender equality panel.
Meanwhile, in a separate vote today, the UN additionally rewarded Iran by making the regime a member of its powerful 19-nation Committee on NGOs, a coveted position because it allows governments to silence criticism by acting as the gatekeeper and overseer of all human rights groups that seek to work inside the world body.
Other egregious human rights abusers elected to the influential panel include Azerbaijan, China, Cuba, slave-holding Mauritania, Russia, and Sudan, whose leader, President Omar al-Bashir, is wanted by the ICC for genocide. All were deemed “not free” in the 2014 annual survey by Freedom House.
Burundi, Guinea, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Turkey, Venezuela, flagged as problematic and only “partly free” by Freedom House, were also elected.
Impact of Today’s Election: What This Means for NGOs
ISHR had warned earlier this month that the failure of democracies to throw their hat in the ring would mean that “the Committee’s membership will worsen considerably during the next term” and severely harm the freedom of NGOs — even as it praised the election of Greece, Israel, South Africa, Uruguay, and the U.S., countries ranked by the ISHR as “strong, pro civil society candidates,” but who now constitute a tiny opposition.
UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer said that NGOs within the UN are now increasingly under threat, citing an incident from last month, as reported in a series of New York Times articles, of how UN security officers protected a UN Watch delegate, daughter of jailed Chinese dissident Wang Bingzhang, from a spying attempt by a Beijing-backed organization bearing NGO credentials.
“The very UN committee that is meant to judge our complaint against this dangerous front group is now stacked more than ever before by China, Sudan and their non-democratic allies, who control some 70 percent of the seats. When the criminals are made the judges — the arsonists named as fire-fighters — it’s a travesty of justice. The crucial role of civil society within the world body is being eroded, its voice at risk of being silenced,” said Neuer.
“Tragically, the UN’s election today of regimes such as Iran, Sudan and Mauritania — governments that rape and torture political prisoners, subjugate women, and commit crimes against humanity from slavery to genocide — sends a message that crass politics trumps basic human rights. The UN is letting down millions of victims around the globe who look to the world body for vital protection,” said Neuer.