September 22, 2022 | Flash Brief

Raisi Addresses UN Despite Grim Human Rights Record

September 22, 2022 | Flash Brief

Raisi Addresses UN Despite Grim Human Rights Record

Latest Developments

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi described the West as “the real violators of human rights” at the UN General Assembly on Wednesday. At the same time, protests continued to sweep across Iran in response to his own government’s human rights abuses — specifically, the Sept. 16 death of a 22-year-old woman, Mahsa Amini, in police custody for violating headscarf laws. These protests challenge the legitimacy of Raisi himself, who won a fraudulent election for president last year and bears a decades-long record of human rights abuses against the Iranian people.

Expert Analysis

“Washington allowed Raisi to come to New York even though he is on the U.S. sanctions list, his government has active plots to assassinate Americans, and his regime is killing innocent Iranians. The Biden administration has missed an important opportunity to stand with the Iranian people against the clerical regime.” Saeed Ghasseminejad, FDD Senior Iran and Financial Economics Advisor

Raisi’s Role in Iran’s 1988 Massacre of Political Dissidents

Raisi played a key role in Tehran’s 1988 massacre of thousands of political prisoners, serving on a four-member panel known as a Death Commission, which decided who would live and who would die. The commission would conduct interviews of prisoners — often just a few minutes long — aimed at determining their loyalty to the Islamic Republic. Typical questions included: “What is your political affiliation?” “Do you pray?” “Are you willing to clear minefields for the Islamic Republic?” The wrong answer meant death.

The executions usually occurred by hanging or by firing squad on the same day as the interrogations. The Death Commissions denied prisoners both lawyers and appeals. Burials occurred in unmarked mass graves, and the regime refused to tell relatives the locations of the bodies. The victims included women and children as young as 13.

Raisi’s Human Rights Abuses in the Judiciary

During the 2009 Green Revolution, Raisi served as deputy chief justice, making him complicit in the prosecution — and, in some cases, the death sentences — of peaceful protesters who objected to Iran’s fraudulent election. As attorney general from 2014 to 2016, Raisi opposed lifting the regime’s house arrests of the Green Revolution’s leaders.

From 2019 to 2021, Raisi served as head of the judiciary, which tortures and denies basic rights to prisoners. According to a State Department report released in 2021, “Commonly reported methods of torture and abuse in prisons included threats of execution or rape, forced tests of virginity and ‘sodomy,’ sleep deprivation, electroshock, including the shocking of genitals, burnings, the use of pressure positions, and severe and repeated beatings.”

U.S. Policy on Raisi

In 2019, the United States sanctioned Raisi pursuant to Executive Order 13876, which authorizes sanctions against individuals appointed to office by Iran’s supreme leader. However, the new nuclear deal currently under negotiation by Washington and Tehran would reportedly lift sanctions on Raisi. Likewise, the new agreement would provide indirect sanctions relief for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which presides over the Basij, the paramilitary force that detained Mahsa Amini.

Despite Raisi’s record, the Biden administration granted him a visa for his UN address. As Iranians risk their lives to protest the regime, U.S. policy sends a message to the regime that it can continue to repress the Iranian people with impunity.

Related Analysis

U.S. Should Deny Visa to Iranian President,” by Saeed Ghasseminejad and David Adesnik

The Sanctioned Cabinet of Ebrahim Raisi,” by Behnam Ben Taleblu

Iran’s Leading Presidential Candidate Has Committed Crimes Against Humanity,” by Tzvi Kahn


Iran Iran Global Threat Network