On Wednesday, following several days of brutal mass executions in Iran, the Czech Republic’s Ambassador to the United Nations and President of the U.N.’s Human Rights Council (UNHRC), Vaclav Balek, announced that the Islamic Republic of Iran was appointed Chair of the U.N. Human Rights Council Forum. The forum is an annual event hosted by the U.N. where delegates, businesses, human rights organizations, civil society, law firms, investors, trade unions, academics, and media meet to discuss the state of human rights in the world and how countries can work together to improve them.
In a letter now published online by Hillel Neuer, an international human rights lawyer and executive director of U.N. Watch, UNHRC president Balek addressed the council, stating that he had the honor of referring to the HRC “Social Forum” resolution, going on to say that he invited regional groups to “submit nominations of the candidates for the Chair-Rapporteur of the 2023 Social Forum.”
In the second paragraph of his letter, Balek said he had the “pleasure” of informing the council of his decision to appoint Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ali Bahreini, to chair the 2023 Social Forum held in early November. This year’s UNHRC Forum will focus on the “contribution of science, technology, and innovation to the promotion of human rights, including in the context of post-pandemic recovery.”
“We have very little information,” Neuer told The Foreign Desk.
The Executive Director of U.N. Watch explained that this “was not an election but an appointment by the President of the UNHRC, who is currently the ambassador of the Czech Republic, and he decided to make the appointment,” Neuer told The Foreign Desk.
Neuer explained that there was only one candidate and referred to a letter by the Asian Group created two weeks ago, “nominating Iran to be the candidate.” The Asian Group includes countries like Lebanon, China, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, North Korea, and many others.
“Presumably, their practice is to go by regional rotation, which means it might have been the Asian Group’s turn, resulting in what might have been a behind-the-scenes agreement that no one would contest their decision to nominate Iran,” Neuer told The Foreign Desk.
Neuer mentioned that in September, the UNHRC appointed another candidate to chair a democracy forum, and the two candidates were from Qatar and the Bahamas. The candidate from Qatar was an individual by the name of Hend Al-Muftah, who was antisemitic, anti-gay, anti-western, and racist. As a result of the investigation into her views and the calls by U.N. Watch and other officials, she lost her bid to chair the forum.
“This upcoming event won’t take place until November, so I thought other countries would submit and take some time, but it happened all so quickly,” Neuer said.
“Our human rights group is outraged. This is an abomination to appoint a regime that beats, blinds, brutalizes, rapes, tortures, and executes innocent people for the crime of protesting.”
“The idea that they would be appointed to a human rights council chair is obscene,” he said.
Neuer stated that the U.N. Watch launched a petition calling for U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres to cancel Iran’s appointment.
On Twitter, director Neuer published a letter calling on the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to “condemn todays appoint of the Islamic Republic of Iran as Chair of the UN Human Rights Council’s Social Forum,” urging the US official to convene a meeting of the Economic and Social Council to remove Tehran from the commission.
The decision by Ambassador Balek to appoint Iran sparked criticism from social media users online.
On Twitter, Gabriel Noronha, a former United States State Department advisor on Iran during the Trump administration, stated that the Czech Republic’s U.N. Ambassador had other choices and that Vaclav Havel, the former Czech Republic President who was a prominent figure in the fight to end Communist rule in Czechoslovakia, would be “appalled” by this action.
“Today’s action encapsulates everything wrong with the U.N. Human Rights Council. Created to protect the helpless and serve as a sounding board for victims of human rights violations around the world, instead, it effectively has been hijacked to shield the worst perpetrators of human wrongs,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, an associate dean and director of global social action for the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
“The Iranian regime will take this as a moral blank check from the UNHRC to proceed viciously and with impunity against its own citizens who are guilty of nothing more than seeking to express their G-d -given freedom and dignity. It is a complete perversion and manipulation of the foundational values of the U.N. The UNHRC has paved the way for more horrors from Ayatollah Khamenei’s regime,” Rabbi Cooper said.
Like many others reacting to this latest news, Cooper stated that the U.S. should “lead a loud international boycott of this so-called social forum.”