UN tribute to Iran’s late President Raisi marred by protests and snubs from Europe and the United States

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The UN General Assembly’s tribute to The late president of Iran, Ebrahim Raisi was rejected by Western and Eastern European nations on Thursday amid protests against the tribute to a leader who was vilified for his crackdown on his opponents.

The assembly’s tribute was not a surprise. It is a long-standing practice for the 193-member world body to hold a plenary meeting to honor the memory of a sitting head of state who dies, where all UN regional groups send representatives to speak about his life and legacy. . And there were some warm tributes to Raisi, especially from African nations.

But what happened on Thursday and was very unusual was that only representatives of the regional groups of Africa, Asia-Pacific and Latin America and the Caribbean spoke. There were no comments from the Western European or Eastern European groups, nor from the United States, which typically speaks last on behalf of the host country.

“The United States will not attend the United Nations tribute event for President Raisi in any way,” said Nate Evans, spokesman for the US Mission to the UN. “Raisi was involved in numerous horrific human rights abuses, including the extrajudicial executions of thousands of political prisoners in 1988. Some of the worst human rights abuses on record took place during his tenure.”

“The UN should stand with the people of Iran,” Evans said in a statement.

As the tribute took place in the assembly hall, more than 100 protesters held banners in front of the UN headquarters that read: “What a shame that the UN is celebrating a monument to Raisi, butcher of Tehran” and chanted similar words.

Before the assembly convened, 45 current and former UN officials, experts, ambassadors and judges sent a joint letter to UN Secretary-General António Guterres protesting the honoring of an individual involved in mass atrocities.

Raisi, 63 years old, a powerful figure in Iran’s authoritarian Islamic governmentwas murdered in a helicopter crash on May 20 along with the country’s Foreign Minister and six other people.

He was long considered a possible successor to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, 85 years oldin whose hands power ultimately rests, but he was vilified by his opponents and sanctioned by the United States for his role in mass executions of political prisoners at the end of Iran’s long war with Iraq in the 1980s.

Many also hold Raisi responsible for the death of Mahsa Amini, who died in police custody in September 2022 after being detained for allegedly violating Iran’s mandatory headscarf law. the death of amini sparked massive protests against the country’s ruling theocracy and a security crackdown that left more than 500 people murdered and more than 22,000 detained.

On Thursday, General Assembly President Dennis Francis opened the meeting by offering the world body’s “deepest condolences to the government and people of Iran.”

Throughout his career, Francisco said, “President Raisi played important roles in Iranian society and government and, as president, led his country’s contribution to shaping the principles of our multilateral system and international cooperation.” .

Secretary-General Guterres then spoke, also offering his condolences and saying that Raisi “led Iran in a challenging time for the countrythe region and globally” – but omitting a tribute.

Guterres assured the Iranian people that the United Nations stands with them “and in the pursuit of peace, development and fundamental freedoms.”

He was followed by Burundi’s ambassador, Zéphyrin Maniratanga, who spoke on behalf of African nations and praised Raisi as a “distinguished leader who dedicated his life to serving his nation and fostering international cooperation, particularly with African countries.”

“The late President Raisi was a visionary leader whose dedication to the principles of equity, brotherhood, solidarity and multilateralism was evident during his tenure,” he said, citing Iran’s expansion of trade, education and health services in Africa.

Then Vanuatu diplomat Marjorie Wells, speaking on behalf of the Asia-Pacific group, called Raisi’s death a “heartbreaking loss,” saying he served the Iranian people “with great dedication and passion” and “worked tirelessly to promote growth, justice and progress.” “

Haiti’s ambassador to the UN, Antonio Rodrigue, speaking on behalf of the Latin American and Caribbean group, called Raisi’s death “a great loss” for Iran, recounted his career and said that he “dedicated his life to the service of his country”.

Western and Eastern Europe and the United States should have followed this example. Instead, the president of the Assembly, Francisco, gave the floor to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Non-Aligned Movement, to which Iran belongs, for the tributes that praised Raisi.

The latest speaker from the Gulf Cooperation Council, which includes Iran’s rival Saudi Arabia, said Raisi served his country and sent condolences to the Iranian people and leadership, saying: “We belong to Allah and to Him we will return.”

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