To: Volker Türk (United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights) and  Václav Bálek (President of the Human Rights Council)

The International Organisation to Preserve Human Rights (IOPHR) would like to express its deep disappointment and strong objection to the recent appointment of Ali Bahreini, the ambassador and permanent representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations, as the head of the Social Forum in the Human Rights Council. As this appointment stands to undermine the years of effort by the Council to highlight human violations of the Iranian regime and the efforts of numerous UN Rapporteurs designated by the Council to highlight the inhuman actions of the Iranian regime against its own citizens.

Moreover, the appointment of Ali Bahreini, to a forum responsible for “the contribution of science, technology and innovation to the promotion of human rights” has raised serious doubts on the commitment of the Council in regards to human rights. As Ali Bahreini is the representative of a regime which for years has deployed technology to surveil and censor the people of Iran, and suppress all forms of expression online and offline. Furthermore, the Supreme leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, was himself the denier of use of technology to help its own people during COVID pandemic, and he personally thwarted the use of Western vaccines in Iran.  

Therefore, this appointment needs to be immediately reversed especially given Iran’s well-documented record of human rights abuses, and recent UN Special Procedures condemnation of various proposals being discussed by the Iranian Government to use artificial intelligence to enforce compulsory hijab.

IOPHR would also like to bring to your attention the grave human rights issues in Iran that make this appointment affront to all human rights standards that UN high commissions stands for:  

1. The killing of youth, children, students, and other citizens during earlier and recent protests who were simply exercising their fundamental rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. Many of whom were met with brutal force, and indiscriminate use of live ammunition which is a clear violation of international human rights standards.

 2. Recent unexplained poisoning of students in schools: The deliberate poisoning of students, specifically targeting girl students should be of a paramount concern for any society. The Iranian government must be held accountable for these reprehensible acts, and measures should be taken to prevent further harm to innocent students.

3. The death penalty in Iran:  Iran has the highest execution rates per capita in the world, with a wide range of offenses being punishable by death, including non-violent crimes. In fact the UN just recently openly condemned the recent rise in executions in Iran, all of which adds to the shocking nature of  Ali Bahreini’s appointment.

4. Torture and violence in prisons: Numerous reports and accounts from former detainees have exposed the routine use of torture and ill-treatment, including beatings, electric shocks, and psychological abuse in Iranian prisons. Therefore, allowing Ambassador Bahreini to hold a leadership position in the Human Rights Council sends a contradictory message about the Council’s commitment to combating such atrocities.

 5. Iranian regime’s continued discrimination of Women, ethnic, religious minorities, and LGBTQ+ community who are subjected to systemic violence, and face widespread persecution and discrimination, often resulting in arbitrary arrests, torture, and other human rights violations and are denied their basic human rights and dignity. 

6. Limitation of access to the internet for citizens: The deliberate disruption and censorship of internet services by the Iranian government represent a gross violation of the right to freedom of expression and access to information. Given all this the Ali Bahreini’s appointment, is a affront to the UN forum responsible for “the contribution of science, technology and innovation to the promotion of human rights.”

7. Restrictions of free speech, writing, and artistic expression: It is deeply troubling that in Iran, authors, actors, journalists, and individuals exercising their right to freedom of expression face severe restrictions and censorship. These oppressive measures curtail the fundamental rights of individuals to express their opinions, share ideas, and contribute to the cultural landscape of society.

Consequently, given all the above and the Human Rights Council  mandate to protect and promote human rights worldwide, the Council must withdraw the appointment of Ali Bahreini.

As such an appointment profoundly undermines the credibility of the Council and undermines its ability to effectively address human rights issues.  Especially, given the numerous human rights reports written by various UN rapporteurs on the human rights issues in Iran, none of whom have even been allowed to visit Iran and see the atrocities committed by the Iranian regime for themselves.

Thereby, we urge you to reconsider this appointment and take immediate action to address the human rights situation in Iran, as the credibility of the Human Rights Council depend on holding member states accountable for their actions and ensuring those responsible for human rights abuses are not rewarded or given prominent positions within the Council.

The International Organisation to Preserve Human Rights

London, Brussels, Berlin, Toronto, Washington

15 May 2023

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