May 30, 2024 | Flash Brief

U.S. Boycotts UN Session Honoring Iran’s Late President

May 30, 2024 | Flash Brief

U.S. Boycotts UN Session Honoring Iran’s Late President

Latest Developments

The United States boycotted a May 30 plenary session of the UN General Assembly held to commemorate Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi, who died in a helicopter crash on May 19. Speeches at the gathering by UN General Assembly President Dennis Francis and eight other diplomats largely lauded Raisi’s leadership, portraying him as a popular figure in Iran who contributed to international cooperation. None of the speakers mentioned Raisi’s prodigious record of domestic repression.

“The United Nations should be standing with the people of Iran, not memorializing their decades-long oppressor,” a U.S. official told Reuters before the session. “Raisi was involved in numerous, horrific human rights abuses, including the extrajudicial killings of thousands of political prisoners in 1988.” The assertion marked an apparent shift from the Biden administration’s conciliatory May 20 statement offering condolences for Raisi’s death.

Expert Analysis

“The Biden administration did the right thing by boycotting the UN session, but it has a long way to go if it seeks an effective Iran policy. So long as Washington provides Tehran with billions of dollars in sanctions relief, remains passive as Iran escalates its nuclear activities, and fails to articulate a credible military threat, the Islamic Republic will continue its malign conduct.” — Tzvi Kahn, FDD Research Fellow and Senior Editor

“The UN has become a stage for anti-American dictators, mass murderers, and psychopaths. It’s no wonder that the UN and its officials honor Raisi and his legacy of crimes against humanity, human rights violations, and anti-American policies. We should recognize the UN for what it truly is: a useless organization occupying prime real estate in the heart of New York City and causing intolerable traffic for New Yorkers a few days each year.” — Saeed Ghasseminejad, FDD Senior Iran and Financial Economics Advisor

World Leaders Praise Raisi

The UN session began with a moment of silence and continued with an address by Francis, a Trinidadian diplomat, who claimed that the late Iranian leader “led his country’s contribution to shaping the tenets of our multilateral system and international cooperation.” UN Secretary-General António Guterres spoke next, describing Raisi’s death as “tragic” and extending “condolences to the families of the deceased and to the government and people of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

Burundi’s ambassador, Zéphyrin Maniratanga, who spoke on behalf of African countries, called Raisi a “visionary leader whose dedication to the principles of equity, brotherhood, solidarity, and multilateralism was evident throughout his tenure.” Pakistan’s ambassador Munir Akram, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said, “Indeed, the various contributions of [the] late President Raisi to the socioeconomic and political transformation in Iran will remain a personal legacy of benevolence that will be recorded in favor of the late president.”

Diplomats representing the Non-Aligned Movement, the Gulf Cooperation Council, the Asia-Pacific regional bloc, the Latin American and Caribbean regional bloc, and the Islamic Republic itself also offered words of praise for Raisi.

A Bloody Career

Raisi — the deputy prosecutor general of Tehran from 1985 to 1988 — facilitated the regime’s 1988 slaughter of thousands of jailed political dissidents by 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. Questions could include: “What is your political affiliation?” “Do you pray?” “Are you willing to clear minefields for the Islamic Republic?” The wrong answer meant death. Raisi has defended the killings, saying in 2018 that they were “one of the proud achievements of the system.”

In the years following the massacre, Raisi continued his bloody career in the judiciary and elsewhere in the regime until he became president in 2021. He served as deputy chief justice (2004-2014), attorney general (2014-2016), and chief justice (2019-2021). In these capacities, he sought or presided over the prosecution, imprisonment, torture, and execution of countless detainees.

Iran’s Terror Proxies Gather On Sidelines of Raisi’s Funeral,” FDD Flash Brief

Iranian President’s Helicopter Crashes, Condition Unknown,” FDD Flash Brief

Executions Surge in Iran as Protests Persist,” FDD Flash Brief

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International Organizations Iran Iran Politics and Economy