A number of international jurists and political figures including scholars who have led or advised judicial institutions in the United Nations and the European Union, addressed an international conference on Iran’s 1988 massacre of political prisoners.
The conference served to reiterate longstanding calls for a comprehensive, impartial, and independent investigation into what some have described as one of the most egregious cases of crime against humanity since the Second World War that is yet to be investigated.
The participants, including former President of the International Criminal Court Dr. Chile Eboe-Osuji, former special Adviser on Crimes Against Humanity to the ICC Prosecutor, Prof. Leila Nadya Sadat, and former Judge of UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and judge of UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, Prof Wolfgang Schomburg, reiterated longstanding calls for the international community to launch a comprehensive investigation of the massacre and hold its perpetrators legally accountable.
Oleksandra Matviichuk, head of the Center for Civil Liberties of Ukraine, the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, and Sir Geoffrey Nice, lead prosecutor at the trial of Slobodan Milosevic at The Hague, sent video recorded messages for the conference.
As the keynote speaker, Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) emphasized that legitimate targets of such prosecution could include the Iranian regime’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei, its President Ebrahim Raisi, and Judiciary Chief Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei. Khamenei was president of the Islamic Republic at the time of the massacre, while Raisi was deputy prosecutor for Tehran and served as one of four officials in the “death commission” that interrogated and sentenced to death thousands of political detainees in Evin and Gohardasht prisons.
This commission and others like it were assembled to carry out a fatwa by the regime’s founder, Ruhollah Khomeini, which declared that organized opposition to the theocratic system was proof of “enmity against God,” a vaguely defined criminal offense which is considered grounds for capital punishment. The fatwa focused particularly on the leading pro-democracy opposition group, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MK), and subsequent communications from Khomeini ordered his subordinates to “annihilate the enemies of Islam immediately.”
It is believed that 30,000 Iranian political prisoners were executed in July and August 1988, of whom roughly 90 percent were members or supporters of the PMOI, or MEK. Survivors of the massacre have said that the death commissions interrogated detainees for only a few minutes to ascertain whether they retained their political allegiances before pronouncing sentence upon them. Some of this testimony was finally presented in a court of law last year when Swedish authorities prosecuted an Iranian prison official, Hamid Noury, on the basis of universal jurisdiction over serious violations of international law.
Noury was ultimately sentenced to life in prison last year for mass murder carried out in cooperation with the Tehran death commission. During his trial, the entire proceeding relocated to Albania, so the court could directly hear the testimony of survivors and victims’ relatives who were living there in the Iranian exile community of Ashraf 3. In addition to securing Noury’s conviction, those eye-witnesses implicated Raisi and others, potentially laying a groundwork for the comprehensive investigation demanded by Monday’s conference.
“On a global scale, the moment has arrived to end the four-decade-long impunity enjoyed by the clerical regime’s leaders, shielding them from prosecution and accountability for their participation in genocide and crimes against humanity,” said Mrs. Rajavi in her keynote speech.
Other speakers, including The Rt. Hon David Jones, a senior member of the UK House of Commons and former UK Secretary of State for Wales and Prof. Alejo Vidal Quadras, former Vice President of European, similarly highlighted Tehran’s perceived “impunity” and blamed it upon persistent international neglect of issues such as the 1988 massacre. Describing that massacre as an “open wound,” Prof. Vidal Quadras stated that its legacy cannot be separated from more recent crackdowns on domestic dissent, including the killing of 750 protesters late last year and the surge of executions that has followed and is still ongoing.
Maryam Rajavi urged the international community to pursue broader accountability after establishing the requested Commission of Inquiry, and to prosecute Khamenei and Raisi “along with other architects of the 1988 massacre and instigators of the killing of young protesters during the recent uprisings, particularly the commanders of the IRGC.”
“The supreme leader, president, head of the judiciary, parliamentary speaker, IRGC commanders, and heads of intelligence and security services within the clerical regime have all been implicated in crimes against humanity dating back to the early years of the regime’s rule,” Rajavi reiterated.
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