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The hypocrisy of the United Nations: A critical examination

2 min

Last week, the United Nations observed a minute of silence in memory of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, who died along with his Foreign Minister in a helicopter crash.

Guillaume Roquette © LCI

Last week, the United Nations observed a minute of silence in memory of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, who tragically died along with his Foreign Minister in a helicopter crash. 

The UN Security Council extended its condolences to Raisi's family and the people of Iran. This gesture, however, highlights a profound inconsistency within the UN's mission, which includes promoting international cooperation and encouraging respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, as outlined in Article 1 of the UN Charter.

The Irony of Tribute

Ebrahim Raisi, infamously known as the "Butcher of Tehran," oversaw brutal crackdowns on democratic protests and authorized multiple hangings. Under his regime, Iranian security forces shot down hundreds of demonstrators who were protesting against the oppressive government. Paying tribute to such a figure starkly contradicts the UN's purported commitment to human rights.

A History of Indignity

The United Nations has a history of controversial decisions that undermine its legitimacy. For example:

  • Saudi Arabia chaired the forum on gender equality, despite its notorious record on women's rights.
  • Iran, a country with significant human rights abuses, led the Human Rights Council forum.
  • Azerbaijan, known for its aggressive actions against Armenian cultural and religious sites, holds the vice-presidency of the UNESCO conference.

The United Nations' Legitimacy Crisis

These appointments raise serious questions about the UN's credibility and its ability to promote world peace. The UN's actions suggest a disconnect between its ideals and its operations, influenced by the majority of non-democratic member states where human rights are often disregarded.

The Fractured Security Council

The Security Council, meant to be the enforcer of global peace, is deeply divided. Western countries are at odds with Russia and China, rendering the council ineffective in addressing international conflicts. This division hampers the UN's role as a global peacekeeper.

The Judicial Dilemma

The International Criminal Court (ICC), inspired by the UN, also faces criticism. Recently, the ICC's prosecutor sought the indictment of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for crimes against humanity in Gaza. Yet, leaders like Xi Jinping, Bashar al-Assad, and Ayatollah Khamenei remain unindicted despite clear evidence of their crimes. This selective justice undermines the ICC's mission to hold state leaders accountable.

Overreach of International Courts

International courts, such as those in The Hague, Strasbourg, and Luxembourg, increasingly encroach upon the sovereignty of democratic states. These courts often fail to apply the principle of subsidiarity, which should limit their intervention to cases where national systems cannot deliver justice. Instead, they assert power over democratic nations, further eroding trust in international justice systems.

The United Nations, with its current structure and operations, has lost much of its legitimacy in the eyes of many. Its actions often reflect the interests of non-democratic states rather than a genuine commitment to human rights and global peace. 

To restore its credibility, the UN must reconcile its ideals with its practices and ensure that its actions align with its foundational mission. Only then can it hope to be an effective force for good in the world.

By Guillaume Roquette

The author is the editorial director of Le Figaro Magazine (France)

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