The United States will next week launch an initiative at the United Nations over human rights violations in Iran, Reuters reported Friday.

The news agency said it had seen a note referring to an “informal UN Security Council gathering” held by the US and Albania, which currently sits on the council. Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi, actress Nazanin Boniadi, and Javaid Rehman, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran,are due to address the gathering, which will be open to state representatives and human rights organizations.

The meeting, Reuters reported, was intended to “highlight the ongoing repression of women and girls and members of religious and ethnic minority groups in Iran,” and would “identify opportunities to promote credible, independent investigations into the Iranian government's human rights violations and abuses.”

The administration of President Joe Biden has been criticized by some Iranian opposition groups over an alleged lack of support for recent protests in Iran or for not ending diplomatic contacts with Tehran. A petition calling for the removal of Rob Malley as the White House’s special Iran envoy has attracted 115,000 signatures.

Some exiled activists have long identified with the Republican Party, which might be seen an area of weakness by Biden’s Democrats as the November 8 Congressional elections approach. But any emphasis on human rights is a double-edged sword. Some Middle-East-focused rights advocates have argued that Biden’s approach to Saudi Arabia over cuts in oil production betrayed a lack of interest in holding Riyadh accountable for human rights abuse.

Iran’s mission to the United Nations in New York this week accused the United States of “hypocrisy, use of a double standard, and selective application of human rights” to their extent that American claims “to support Iranian women to be deceptive and lacking in good faith.”

‘Political sanctions’?

The UN approach to human rights has not been without its own controversy. Ebadi, who left Iran 2009, said in April that Alena Douhan, the UN Special Rapporteur on unilateral coercive measures (‘UN speak’ for sanctions), should not visit Iran unless Tehran also agreed to a visit by the human rights rapporteur Rehman, who has not been allowed into the country. Ebadi in 2018 expressed opposition to US economic measures that penalized the general population and argued instead for targeted ‘political sanctions.’

Douhan issued a report in September, after a visit to Iran, arguing that US sanctions should be lifted due to their impact on the “broad spectrum of human rights” including “the right to life and the right to development.” The report said the delivery of medicines and medical equipment to Iran was “severely undermined” by Washington’s sanctions on finance, trade, shipping and insurance, although humanitarian trade is not sanctioned and Iran imports around $1.5 billion of medicines a year.

The role of Albania in calling the UN gathering will also be noted in Tehran, given Albania has hosted the Mujahideen-e Khalq since 2013, when the US relocated the Iranian opposition group from Iraq, where it had been stranded by the demise of its ally Saddam Hussein. The US Deputy National Security Advisor Jon Finer this week reaffirmed US support for Tirana, including improved “cybersecurity in the face of repeated, disruptive cyber-attacks by Iran.”

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