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UN holds tribute for late Iranian leader Ebrahim Raisi, US to boycott event

A US official said the UN should not memoralise Iran's decades-long oppressor, citing Raisi's infamous role in executing thousands of political prisoners in 1988. Raisi was killed along with his foreign minister and other officials during a helicopter crash on May 19.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee New York Published on: May 30, 2024 7:47 IST
Ebrahim Raisi death, UN tribute
Image Source : REUTERS (FILE) A mourner holds the picture of the late Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.

New York: The United States has decided to boycott a United Nations event paying tribute to Ebrahim Raisi, the late Iranian leader who was killed earlier this month in a helicopter crash along with his foreign minister and other officials, according to a US official. The 193-member UN General Assembly traditionally meets to pay tribute to any world leader who was a sitting head of state at the time of their death.

"We won't attend this event in any capacity," a US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters. One of the most bitter rivals of Iran, the US has imposed several sanctions on Tehran, mostly related to its controversial nuclear programme, and has been at loggerheads over supporting proxy groups against Israel and lending aid to Russia in the Ukraine conflict.

"The United Nations should be standing with the people of Iran, not memorialising their decades-long oppressor. Raisi was involved in numerous, horrific human rights abuses, including the extrajudicial killings of thousands of political prisoners in 1988. Some of the worst human rights abuses on record, especially against the women and girls of Iran, took place during his tenure," said the US official. 

Notably, Raisi has been widely known as the 'Butcher of Tehran' for his role in persecuting minorities and executing thousands of political prisoners in 1988 after the eight-year-war with Iraq as part of the so-called 'death committee'. The US Treasury in 2019 sanctioned Raisi “for his administrative oversight over the executions of individuals who were juveniles at the time of their crime and the torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment of prisoners in Iran, including amputations.”

He also supported the country's security services as they cracked down on all dissent, including in the aftermath of the 2022 death of Mahsa Amini and the nationwide protests that followed. The months-long security crackdown killed more than 500 people and saw over 22,000 detained. Despite this, Raisi stood by his words and did not alter any laws and rejected West's suggestion to dilute the so-called morality policing.

US criticised for offering condolences to Iran

The UN Security Council stood at the beginning of an unrelated meeting for a moment of silence on May 20 to remember the victims of the helicopter crash near the Azerbaijan border on May 19. Deputy US Ambassador to the UN Robert Wood reluctantly stood with his 14 counterparts.

The United States expressed its "official condolences" for Raisi's death, the State Department said on May 20. White House national security spokesperson John Kirby also said that day: "No question this was a man who had a lot of blood on his hands." However, the Biden administration was strongly criticised by some Republican members of Congress for offering condolences to Iran.

Meanwhile, Iran's acting president Mohammed Mokhber addressed the parliament for the first time, praising Raisi's time in office and noting that Iran's crude oil production — a key source of hard currency for the country — climbed to more than 3.6 million barrels a day. That comes after Oil Minister Javad Owji said Sunday that Iran was now exporting around 2 million barrels a day, despite Western sanctions targeting the Islamic Republic.

Iran's presidential elections 

Iran has announced snap presidential elections on June 28 to replace Raisi in the wake of his death. On Thursday, a five-day registration period for candidates will open. Analysts have suggested that Mokhber could be one of those to register.

Meanwhile, Monday marked the first day for Iran's newly elected parliament, following a March election that saw the country's lowest turnout since its 1979 Islamic Revolution. Of those elected to the 290-seat body, hard-liners hold over 230 seats, according to an Associated Press survey.

Iran's parliament plays a secondary role in governing the country, though it can intensify pressure on a presidential administration when deciding on the annual budget and other important bills. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, 85, has the final say in all important state matters.

(with inputs from agencies)

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