GENEVA, April 16, 2018 – A Swiss-based watchdog organization today called on the world body not to elect a “rogues’ gallery of the world’s worst human rights abusers” to the 19-nation UN committee that accredits human rights organizations, including candidate countries Iran, Russia, China, Cuba, Turkey, Burundi, Pakistan, Sudan, Turkey, Venezuela, Libya and Nicaragua. All except Libya already serve on the committee and are likely to be reelected today.
“Asking Iran, Russia and Venezuela to oversee human rights activists is like making Al Capone in charge of fighting organized crime,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based United Nations Watch, a non-governmental organization accredited in special consultative status with the UN. “It’s absurd, and will harm the ability of pro-democracy activists worldwide to advocate for their human rights inside the United Nations.”
This afternoon ECOSOC will elect 19 member states to its Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations, for a four-year term from 2019 through 2022.
“Membership on this committee matters,” said Neuer, “because it’s the primary gatekeeper for deciding which human rights activists and civil society groups can have a place and a voice at the United Nations. Sadly, the dictator-dominated committee systematically denies accreditation to legitimate organizations, and systematically harasses those who already have it in order to intimidate them into silence.”
“Not surprisingly, with dictators like Vladimir Putin, Ayatollah Khamenei and Nicolas Maduro in charge, this has turned into the committee against NGOs,” said Neuer.
The committee routinely rules against legitimate civil society NGOs, while accrediting organizations linked to terrorist organizations. In recent years, the 19-nation committee voted to silence a Vietnamese human rights group, denied accreditation to the leading pro-democracy group Human Rights Foundation, and approved a group linked to Hamas and antisemitic incitement.
The Committee AGAINST Non-Governmental Organizations
Iran’s Record on Human Rights NGOs
According to the most recent US State Department report on Iran:
- Iran’s new Political Crimes law restricts NGOs, with barriers to speech and advocacy by defining political crimes to include insult against the government and “the publication of lies.” The law also criminalizes political activism. Delineated acts are deemed “political crimes” if they “are committed with the intent of reforming the domestic or foreign policies of Iran”; acts intended to damage the “foundations of the regime” are deemed “national security crimes.”
- Human rights defender and journalist Narges Mohammadi was sentenced to 16 years in prison in May 2016 for “propaganda against the state,” “assembly and collusion against national security,” and “establishing the antisecurity and illegal ‘Step by Step to Stop the Death Penalty’ party.”
- The regime periodically imprisons political activist and lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh and briefly suspended her law license due to her advocacy for prisoners of conscience.
- The government restricts the work of NGOs through harassment, arrests, online hacking, and monitoring of individual activists and organization workplaces.
- The government also routinely intimidates human rights activists by repeatedly summoning them in for questioning, and confiscating personal belongings such as cell phones, laptops and passports.
- Iran imprisons lawyers and others affiliated with the Defenders of Human Rights Center advocacy group.
- Human rights defenders who engage with the UN Special Rapporteur on Iran are subjected to reprisals.