Open letter to the UN by 106 experts on Iran’s chairmanship of the Social Forum


H.E. Volker Türk
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
Palais des Nations
CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland


Amb. Václav Bálek, President of the UN Human Rights Council
Permanent Representatives of the Member States of the Human Rights Council

2 November 2023

Dear High Commissioner,

RE: Statement to the United Nations

In an undemocratic process, the religious dictatorship ruling Iran, one of the biggest violators of human rights in the world today, will take over the chairmanship of the Social Forum of the United Nations Human Rights Council on 2 November 2023 in Geneva.

This platform is being given to the Iranian regime at a time when in addition to its flagrant violations of human rights inside Iran, the regime plays the biggest role in wreaking havoc in the Middle East, having caused the death and displacement of hundreds of thousands of people on both sides in recent days.

Top Iranian officials, including President Ebrahim Raisi, should be held accountable for the 1988 massacre of some 30,000 political prisoners, the vast majority members of the PMOI (MEK).

Allowing a regime notorious for committing the 1988 massacre and daily executions and warmongering to take over a prestigious UN platform is a dagger to the heart of human rights, fuels terrorism and endangers regional and global peace. It egregiously violates the very principles upon which the United Nations has been founded and for which millions of people have sacrificed their lives. This represents a dark stain in the history of the United Nations.

The UN has condemned Iran’s regime in 69 resolutions for gross and systematic violations of human rights. The clerical regime has executed more than 600 people in the first 10 months of 2023 and murdered 750 protesters during the 2022 uprising and 1,500 more during the 2019 uprising. On 24 November 2022, the Human Rights Council established an international Fact-Finding Mission to investigate the Iranian authorities’ human rights violations during the 2022 uprising. On 14 December 2022, Iran’s regime was removed from the UN Women’s Rights Commission due to its atrocious human rights record. On 15 December 2022, the UN General Assembly condemned the brutal and systematic violations of human rights in Iran. On 4 April 2023, the Human Rights Council condemned the human rights abuses in Iran and renewed the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Appointing the representative of such a regime as the Chair of the Human Rights Council’s Social Forum will be seen by the clerical regime as a green light for more torture and killing and assure its suppressive forces that they will not be held accountable for their crimes.

We ask the representatives of all democratic countries and all human rights advocates to protest the Iranian regime’s chairmanship of the UN human rights body and to refrain from attending its session on 2-3 November 2023.


Individual co-signatories:

Prof. Stefan Trechsel – (Switzerland)
President of the European Commission of Human Rights (1995–1999); Judge, UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) (2006-2013)

Prof. Catherine Van de Heyning – (Belgium)
Member, UN Human Rights Council Advisory Committee; Professor of fundamental rights, University of Antwerp

Amb. Stephen J. Rapp – (United States)
US Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice (2009-2015); Prosecutor of the UN Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) (2007-2009)

Amb. Zorica Marić-Djordjević – (Montenegro)
Ambassador of Montenegro to the UN Human Rights Council and WTO (2013-2018)

Dr. Rowan Williams – (United Kingdom)
Former Archbishop of Canterbury; former Master of Magdalene College, University of Cambridge

Jody Williams – (United States)
1997 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate

Prof. Sir Geoffrey Nice KC – (United Kingdom)
Chair Uyghur Tribunal; Chair China Tribunal; Lead prosecutor at the trial of Slobodan Milošević in The Hague; prosecuted the case of Bosnian Croat Dario Kordić at the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), successfully prosecuted Goran Jelisić at the ICTY

Hon. Richard J. Goldstone – (South Africa)
Former Judge of the Constitutional Court of South Africa; Former Chief Prosecutor of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda; Honorary President of the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI)

Sir David Edward KCMG KC – (United Kingdom)
Judge, European Court of Justice (1992-2004); Professor Emeritus, University of Edinburgh

Prof. José Luís da Cruz Vilaça – (Portugal)
President of the Court of First Instance of the European Communities (1989-1995); Judge of the Court of Justice of the European Union (2012-2018); Member of the Portuguese Government (1980-1983); Professor of EU Law

Maud De Boer-Buquicchio – (The Netherlands)
UN Special Rapporteur on the Sale and Sexual Exploitation of Children (2014-2020); former Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe

Tom Allen – (United Kingdom)
KC, Lawyer at Cloth Fair Chamber

Lord Alton of Liverpool – (United Kingdom)
Member of the House of Lords

Hiljmnijeta Apuk – (Kosovo)
Winner, United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights for 2013; Director, Little People of Kosova; Member, Ad Hoc Committee of the UN General Assembly on drafting of the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Jonathan Arkush – (United Kingdom)
Barrister, Enterprise Chambers

Prof. Barry C. Barish – (United States)
2017 Nobel Laureate in Physics

Stephanie Barwise – (United Kingdom)
KC, Atkin Chambers

Sonja Biserko – (Serbia)
Former Member of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights Violations in North Korea (DPRK); Founder and President of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia

Bob Blackman MP – (United Kingdom)
Member of Parliament

Greg Boos – (United States)
Member of the List of Counsel for the International Criminal Court (ICC)

Tahar Boumedra – (United Kingdom)
Director, Justice for the Victims of the 1988 Massacre in Iran (JVMI); former Chief of UNAMI Human Rights Office and Representative of the HCHR in Iraq

Prof. Dr. Susanne Brandtstädter – (Germany)
Professor and Chair of the Anthropology of Globalization at the University of Cologne

Prof. Stephen Eric Bronner – (United States)
Co-Director, International Council for Diplomacy and Dialogue (ICDD); Board of Governors Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Rutgers University; Affiliate Distinguished Fellow, Center for the Study of Genocide and Human Rights (CGHR), Rutgers University

Toby Cadman – (United Kingdom)
Co-founder of Guernica 37 International Justice Chambers

Achille Campagna – (San Marino)
Member of the List of Counsel for the International Criminal Court (ICC)

Prof. Valeriu M. Ciucă – (Romania)
Judge, General Court of the European Union (2007-2010)

Prof. Sara Chandler KC (Hon) – (United Kingdom)
Secretary to the Human Rights Commission of the European Bars Federation (Fédération des Barreaux d’Europe – FBE) and Former President of the FBE; Former Chair of the Human Rights Committee, Law Society of England & Wales

The Hon. Tony Clement PC – (Canada)
Former Member of Parliament from Canada; former Canadian Minister of Industry, Minister of Health and President of the Treasury Board

Prof. Rebecca Cook – (Canada)
Professor Emerita, Faculty of Law at the University of Toronto

Prof. David M. Crane – (United States)
Founding Chief Prosecutor, UN Special Court for Sierra Leone; Founder, Global Accountability Network

Sharron Davies MBE – (United Kingdom)
Swimmer, Olympic medalist

Prof. Franklin Dehousse – (Belgium)
Judge, General Court of the European Union (2003-2016); Legal Adviser to the Chamber of Representatives of Belgium (1981-1990); Professor, University of Liège

Prof. Predrag Dojčinović – (United States)
Adjunct Professor and Research Affiliate at the Human Rights Institute at the University of Connecticut; War Crimes expert at the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) (1998-2017)

Clair Duffy – (Australia)
Former Prosecution Appeals Counsel, UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR)

Prof. Debórah Dwork – (United States)
Director, Center for the Study of the Holocaust, Genocide, and Crimes Against Humanity at The Graduate Center—City University of New York (CUNY)

Thom Dyke – (United Kingdom)
Barrister, DEKA Chamber

Prof. Hilary Earl – (Canada)
Professor of European History and Genocide Studies, Nipissing University; former Member of the Advisory Board, International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS)

Tracy Edwards MBE – (United Kingdom)
Founder, The Maiden Factor

Malcolm Fowler – (United Kingdom)
Solicitor and Higher Court Advocate, member of JVMI

Prof. Sheldon Glashow – (United States)
1979 Nobel Laureate in Physics

Prof. Giovanni Grasso – (Italy)
Former International Judge of the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina; former Judge of the Human Rights Chamber for Bosnia and Herzegovina

Prof. Nicholas Grief – (United Kingdom)
Emeritus Professor of Law, University of Kent

Prof. Eric Heinze – (United Kingdom)
Executive Director, Centre for Law, Democracy, and Society (CLDS), Queen Mary University of London; Professor of Law & Humanities, School of Law, Queen Mary University of London

Prof. Rhoda E. Howard-Hassmann – (Canada)
Professor Emerita, Wilfrid Laurier University; Member of the Order of Canada; Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada; Canada Research Chair in International Human Rights (2003-2016)

Elfriede Jelinek – (Austria)
2004 Nobel Laureate in Literature

Birgitta Jonsdottir – (Iceland)
Former Member of Parliament; former WikiLeaks officer

Dr. Ellen J. Kennedy – (United States)
Executive Director, World Without Genocide

Prof. Nico Krisch – (Switzerland)
Professor of International Law, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies

Prof. Finn E. Kydland – (Norway)
2004 Nobel Laureate in Economic Sciences

Prof. Wendy Lower – (United States)
Director, Mgrublian Center for Human Rights, Claremont CA

Dr. Carmen Márquez-Carrasco – (Spain)
Professor of Public International Law and International Relations, University of Sevilla

Kyle Matthews – (Canada)
Executive Director, Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (MIGS) at Concordia University

Prof. Michel Mayor – (Switzerland)
2019 Nobel Laureate in Physics

Dr. Eyal Mayroz – (Australia)
Senior Lecturer, Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Sydney

Dr. Melanie O’Brien – (Australia)
President, International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS); Associate Professor of International Law, University of Western Australia

Dr. Alan Mendoza – (United Kingdom)
Executive Director, The Henry Jackson Society

Prof. Errol P. Mendes – (Canada)
President, International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), Canadian Section; Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa

Eleonora Mongelli – (Italy)
Vice President, FIDU – Federazione Italiana Diritti Umani (Italian Federation for Human Rights)

Stanislav Pavlovschi – (Moldova)
Minister of Justice of Moldova (2019); Judge, European Court of Human Rights (2001-2008)

David Matas – (Canada)
Human rights lawyer and Co-Founder of International Coalition To End Transplant Abuse In China

Elisabeth Rabesandratana – (France)
Member of the List of Counsel for the International Criminal Court (ICC)

Jonathan Elystan Rees KC – (United Kingdom)
Member of the List of Counsel for the International Criminal Court (ICC)

Sir Richard J. Roberts Ph.D. F.R.S. – (United Kingdom)
1993 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine

David Russell – (United Kingdom)
UK Coordinator, Survivors Fund (SURF)

Dr. Victoria Sanford – (United States)
Founding Director, Center for Human Rights & Peace Studies at Lehman College-City University of New York (CUNI); Lehman Professor of Excellence, 2021-2024

Tarazi Mohammed Sheikh – (Bangladesh)
Human Rights Activist

Mélanie Sonhaye-Kombate – (Togo)
Executive Director, West Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (WAHRDN / ROADDH)

Dr. Denakpon L. Tchobo – (United States)
President, Global Justice Intelligence Eyes (GJIE)

Senator Orry Van de Wauwer – (Belgium)
Member of the Senate of Belgium

Adam M. VanHo – (United States)
Member of the List of Counsel for the International Criminal Court (ICC)

Amos Waldman – (United Kingdom)
Barrister at Doughty Street Chambers; Member of the List of Counsel for the International Criminal Court (ICC)

Prof. Jerry P. White – (Canada)
Professor Emeritus, Sociology, Western University; Director, Aboriginal Policy Research Consortium

Ahmet Cemil Yildirim – (Kuwait)
Associate Professor of Comparative Law, Gulf University for Science and Technology, Faculty Member ICA-Agenzia, Visiting Research Fellow University of Cambridge (2023)

Prof. Eve Zucker – (United States)
Lecturer at Yale University; Member, Steering Committee, Genocide Studies Program at Yale University

Nigel Tozzi – (United Kingdom)
KC, Barrister, 4 Pump Court

Stephen Rubin – (United Kingdom)
Lawyer, Fountain Court Chamber

James Goudie – (United Kingdom)
Head of 11 KBW Chambers

Francesca Quint – (United Kingdom)
Barrister, Radcliffe Chamber

John Kelsey-Fry – (United Kingdom)
KC, Head of Cloth Fair Chambers

Leslie Kosmin – (United Kingdom)
Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge

Jackie Bond – (United Kingdom)
Barrister, 1MCB Chambers

Prof. David Feldman – (United Kingdom)
KC (Hon), FBA Emeritus Rouse Ball Professor of English Law, University of Cambridge

Prof. Maurice Mendelson – (United Kingdom)
KC, Blackstone Chambers

Dr. Thomas D. Grant – (United States)
Fellow, Lauterpacht Centre for International Law, University of Cambridge

Suzanne B. Seltzer – (United States)
The Seltzer Firm, PLLC, New York

Lee Abrams – (United States)
Senior Counsel, Mayer Brown, Chicago

Prof. Christoph Degenhart – (Germany)
Prof. Dr. iur Universität Leipzig – Juristenfakultät, former member of the Constitutional Court of Saxony

Peter Koenig – (United States)
Counsel, Washington DC

Colin Diamond – (United States)
Partner, White & Case LLP

Prof. Aaron X. Fellmeth – (United States)
Professor of Law, Science & Technology, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, Arizona State University

Prof. Matthew H. Kramer – (United States)
Professor of Legal & Political Philosophy, Cambridge University

Jesus Alfaro Aguila-real – (Spain)
Associate Professor, University Autonoma de Madrid

Susan Cohen – (United States)
Founder and Chair Emeritus, Immigration Practice, Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C.

Sanna Wolk – (Sweden)
Special Advisor; Professor in Schjødt

Gavan Griffith – (Australia)
KC, counsel at the Australian and English bars

Co-signatory organisations:

Justice for the Victims of the 1988 Massacre in Iran (JVMI) – (United Kingdom)

Center for Civil Liberties (CCL) – 2022 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate – (Ukraine)

CIVICUS – (South Africa)

Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (MIGS) – Concordia University – (Canada)

Center for the Study of the Holocaust, Genocide, and Crimes Against Humanity, The Graduate Center—City University of New York (CUNY) – (United States)

Guernica 37 Chambers – (United Kingdom)

German Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (GCADP) – (Germany)

West African Human Rights Defenders Network / Réseau Ouest Africain des Défenseurs des Droits Humains (WAHRDN/ROADDH) – (Togo)

World Without Genocide – (United States)

International Council for Diplomacy and Dialogue (ICDD) – (United States)

NGO Little People of Kosova – (Kosovo)