Alena Douhan

UN Holds Panel Slamming Western Sanctions, Empowering Russia, Iran, Syria

Today the UN Human Rights Council devotes a two-hour session to bashing the West for imposing sanctions on dictatorships like Russia, Syria, Iran, Cuba and Venezuela, in its biennial panel on “unilateral coercive measures.”

The event is part of a larger initiative at the council, transparently selective and politicized, which includes a full-time Special Rapporteur on unilateral coercive measures, a thinly-veiled mechanism to attack the West and portray gross abusers as victims.

Those pretending to oppose coercive economic measures are silent about the Arab countries who still boycott Israel and those who do business with Israel.

The panel on September 14th was mandated by the Non-Aligned Movement, the main sponsor of UNHRC resolution 52/13, titled The negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights. NAM’s members include the very dictatorships — Cuba, Iran, Russia, Syria, and Venezuela — that will be described as victims of human-rights abusing Western sanctions.

Opening statements are to be delivered by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk and Special Rapporteur Alena Douhan, who has a record of acting as a propagandist for brutal dictatorships.

Prior to being selected for her post, she appeared on the 2017 biennial panel on unilateral coercive measures — dubbed the Mother of all Rogues’ Galleries — alongside other longtime UN apologists for dictators like  Jean Ziegler, Idris Jazairy and Alfred de Zayas.

In December 2022, when Iran was condemned at the UN for its assault on protesters in the wake of Mahsa Amini’s death, Douhan penned a letter to the United States blaming all of Iran’s problems on U.S. sanctions.

In 2021, Douhan received $200,000 from China at the same time as she helped the regime whitewash its ethnic cleansing of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang, appearing at a Chinese regime propaganda event falsely portraying Xinjiang as a utopia. 

All of Douhan’s country visits to date — to Iran, Zimbabwe, Venezuela, Qatar, and Syria — have been propaganda opportunities for those regimes to whitewash their human rights abuses.

Today, after the panel, Douhan will present two reports to the council. One is on Syria, which she visited last year, commending the Assad regime for its cooperation and concluding that Western sanctions against the regime “may amount to a crime against humanity, against all Syrian people.”

After her visit there last year, Douhan had released a statement blaming Western sanctions, not years of civil war or the brutal policies of the Assad government, for mass poverty in Syria.

In a second report presented today titled Impact of unilateral coercive measures on the right to health, Douhan blamed Western sanctions for difficulties faced by LGBT people in places like Iran, Syria, Sudan, and Zimbabwe in accessing gender affirmative hormone therapy, hormone replacement and anti-retro-viral therapy.

Like Douhan, this year’s panelists demonize the U.S. and the West, while shielding human rights abusing regimes.

  • Elena Gentili is the former Cuba country director for Oxfam, and lobbies against the U.S. embargo of Cuba. Under Gentili’s leadership, Oxfam published a report in 2021 titled Right to Live Without a Blockade calling for an end to the embargo. She blamed the embargo for violations against women in Cuba.


  • Jeffrey D. Sachs is a Columbia University professor who blames the U.S. for the wars in Ukraine and Syria. In 2023, he addressed the UN Security Council — at Russia’s invitation — where he blamed the U.S. for blowing up the Nord Stream pipeline.


  • Amir Saed Vakil is an Iranian lawyer and professor at the state-controlled University of Tehran. He defends the regime and criticizes the West. In 2021, Vakil represented the Iranian Judo Federation when it faced disciplinary action for ordering one of its athletes to withdraw from a competition to avoid facing an Israeli athlete. In March 2020, Vakil spoke at an event hosted by the Tehran-based “Iranian Association for United Nations Studies” focused on lionizing Qassem Soleimani, the IRGC commander who fomented deadly conflicts throughout the Middle East. Vakil criticized the assassination as a violation of international law. 


  • Mihir Kanade of India is a member of the UNHRC’s expert mechanism on the right to development. He accuses “rich” Western countries of violating a so-called “obligation of international cooperation” through “vaccine nationalism,” i.e., ensuring they obtained COVID vaccines for their citizens. 


UN to Give the Floor to GONGOs — Fake NGOs Fronting for China, Iran, Cuba

In addition, at least four of the supposed non-governmental organizations (NGOs) on the UN’s speakers’ list for the panel are in fact GONGOs (government-operated NGOs) which spout propaganda for Iran and China, and are headquartered in those countries: “Medical Support Association for Underprivileged Iranian Patients” (Iran), “Bachehaye Asemane Kamran Rehabilitation Institute” (Iran), “Association of Iranian Short Statured Adults” (Iran), and “Shaanxi Patriotic Volunteer Association” (China). 

Likewise, at today’s later and related Interactive Dialogue with Special Rapporteur Alena Douhan, at least six of the NGOs on the speakers list are also GONGOs of Iran and Cuba, and headquartered in those countries: “Medical Support Association for Underprivileged Iranian Patients” (Iran), “Organization for Defending Victims of Violence” (Iran), “Rahbord Peimayesh Research & Educational Services Cooperative” (Iran), “Asociacion Cubana de las Naciones Unidas” (Cuban United Nations Association (Cuba); “Network of Women’s Non-governmental Organizations in the Islamic Republic of Iran” (Iran), and “International Association of Justice Watch” (Iran).

Why is the UN allowing regime front groups to subvert a system meant to give the floor to legitimate civil society and human rights defenders?

UN Watch