US boycotts UN tribute to late Iranian president Raisi

Hardliner killed in helicopter crash on May 19 had been seen as potential successor to Iran's supreme leader

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The US on Thursday boycotted a UN tribute to former Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi, accusing the late leader of being “involved in numerous, horrific human rights abuses”.

It said that instead, “the UN should be standing with the people of Iran”.

Mr Raisi, a hardliner who had been seen as a potential successor to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was killed when his helicopter crashed in poor weather in the mountains near the Azerbaijan border this month.

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.

Speeches were made by countries and regional groups during the 50-minute tribute to Mr Raisi.

“The United States will not attend today's United Nations tribute event for President Raisi in any capacity,” said Nate Evans, spokesman for the US mission.

“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 took place during his tenure.”

The president, who had previously served for years in Iran's judiciary, was part of what has been described by rights groups as a “death committee” that presided over the execution of thousands of political prisoners in 1988, as Iran's eight-year war with Iraq was coming to an end.

Mr Raisi's government was also behind the brutal crackdown on protests that followed the death of Mahsa Amini in police custody in 2022. Ms Amini had been detained for wearing her hijab “improperly”.

In a short statement, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres told the General Assembly that Mr Raisi had led Iran at a challenging time for the country, the region and the world.

“The United Nations stands in solidarity with the Iranian people and in the quest for peace, development and fundamental freedoms,” Mr Guterres said.

Iran's UN ambassador Amir Saeid Iravani reflected on the “profound impact” of Mr Raisi and Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, who was killed in the same helicopter crash.

“They were not just figures of authority, but also a symbol of hope, resilience and the enduring power of good governance and diplomacy,” Mr Iravani told the General Assembly.

“We remain committed to upholding the principles of peace, security, justice and multilateralism that they tirelessly supported.”

A presidential election to replace Mr Raisi has been scheduled for June 28.

Updated: May 30, 2024, 10:25 PM