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Silence toward the 1988 massacre allowed Iran’s regime to continue crimes against humanity

Khavaran Cemetery in southern Tehran, mass graves believed to hold many of those political prisoners, executed in 1988 massacre
Khavaran Cemetery in southern Tehran, mass graves believed to hold many of those political prisoners, executed in 1988 massacre

Analysis by PMOI/MEK

Iran, July 27, 2020—During the November 2019 nationwide uprising in Iran, security forces killed more than 1,500 unarmed protesters, including 19 children, in just three days in the street by the suppressive Revolutionary Guard Basij forces.

Information obtained from inside Iran indicates that the scale of the massacre and the ongoing torture and execution of protesters arrested during the uprising is much worse.

But this is not a tragedy that happened over a night, or a week or month. The brutal treatment of Iranian protesters is the result of a regime enjoying more than four decades of impunity in its crimes against humanity.

Most glaring among them is the massacre of more than Iranian political prisoners in the summer of 1988, which marks its 32nd anniversary this week. At the time, then-regime supreme leader Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa to purge all prisons of regime opponents. In a matter of weeks, Iranian authorities tried and executed more than 30,000 prisoners across Iran, most of whom were supporters and members of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK). The bodies of the victims were buried in mass, unmarked graves to hide evidence of the brutal act.

The massacre was never investigated by the international community, and the perpetrators were never brough to justice. This lack of interest by the international community to hold the regime to account for its crime against humanity has only spurred Iranian officials to further use suppression, torture, and execution as the main tool to keep their hold on power.

Perpetrators of the 1988 Massacre

Today, many of the authorities involved in the 1988 massacre are still occupying posts of power.

According to the Justice for Victims of 1988 Massacre in Iran (JVMI) which has collected relevant information regarding the perpetrators, about 96 individuals acted as members of the Death Committees in 1988 and at least 87 of those individuals continue to hold key positions in various branches of the Iranian regime’s establishment.

Key among them is Ebrahim Raisi, the regime’s current judiciary chief. In 1988, he was Tehran’s Deputy Prosecutor and a key member of Tehran’s “Death Commission,” a trio of regime officials who carried out minutes-long trials for the prisoners being sent to the gallows. Alireza Avaie, a member of the Death Committee in Khuzestan, was justice minister under current regime president Hassan Rouhani until August 2017; His two predecessors, who held office in the previous eight years, Mustafa Pour-Mohammadi and Morteza Bakhtiari, were also members of the Death Commissions. Also, Mohammad Esmail Shushtari, justice minister from 1989 until 2005, headed the state Prisons Organization in 1988 and was another active member of the Death Commission in Tehran.

 

Members of the death committee; Ebrahim Raisi, Hosein Ali Nayeri, Mostafa Pour-Mohamadi, Ali Mobasheri, and Esmail Shoushtari.

Members of the death committee; Ebrahim Raisi, Hosein Ali Nayeri, Mostafa Pour-Mohamadi, Ali Mobasheri, and Esmail Shoushtari.

 

Many other Death Committee members have held positions such as Supreme Court judges, members of the parliament, heads of largest financial and trade institutions, members of the Assembly of the Experts and State Expediency Discernment Council. Also, Ali Khamenei, the current Supreme Leader of the regime, was directly involved in the 1988 massacre as the president of the Islamic Republic.

Not only are regime officials unashamed of their crimes, but they also defend them. On August 28, 2016, Mostafa Pourmohammadi was quoted by the state-run Tasnim news agency as saying: “We are proud to have carried out God’s commandment with regard to the [MEK] and to have stood with strength and fought against the enemies of God and the people.”

Eyewitnesses testimony

“I was arrested in 1981 for supporting the MEK. When the massacre started in 1988 I was in solitary confinement,” said Mostafa Naderi, a former political prisoner and eye witness of the 1988 massacre. According to Naderi, the regime prepared the massacre two years earlier by separating prisoners based on their sentences and political beliefs. “I witnessed that none of 250 prisoners in the top section of ward 3 of Evin prison survived and from 200 prisoners in ward 3’s lower section all but two were executed,” Mostafa Naderi added.

 

Mostafa Naderi, Iranian ex political prisoner during 1988 massacre in Iran who spent 11 years in prison

Mostafa Naderi, Iranian ex political prisoner during 1988 massacre in Iran who spent 11 years in prison

 

“32 years ago, I interviewed 40 survivors of the 1988 massacre, and I was staggered by my findings. I described it as the worst crime against humanity since the concentration camps of the Second World War,” said Geoffrey Robertson, QC and renowned human rights barrister during the second day of Free Iran Global Summit, the Call for Justice online conference.

Robertson read an excerpt from his book about the 1988 massacre, in which he has recorded the buildup to the executions and how the regime sent thousands of prisoners to their deaths without proper trial, without appeal, and without mercy.

The Call for Justice Campaign

In 2016, Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) announced a call for justice for the victims of the 1988 massacre. The effort has led to dozens of mass graves being found and documented across Iran based on eye-witness reports, information provided by family members of victims and documentary and photographic evidence from the sites.

In the Free Iran Global Summit, Tahar Boumedra, former head of the UN Advisory Mission for Iraq’s Human Rights Office and a member of the advisory board of the nonprofit Justice for Victims of 1988 Massacre in Iran (JVMI), said: “The crime committed against political prisoners in 1988 has been well established and documented. The UN and relevant institutions have been informed and received documents on this issue.”

Boumedra continued that: “In 2018, the former human rights commissioner Zeid Hussein said the UN has informed the regime to investigate the crime. Two years later, the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran is asking the same thing. We know the mullahs’ regime will not investigate. It is naïve to believe the mullahs would investigate themselves. Let’s warn the UN that enough is enough. The regime will not investigate its own crimes and impunity has emboldened the Iranian authorities. They continue to commit crimes. It is time to think about a coalition of civil society and NGOs to lobby all together and make sure we find a way to take this crime to national courts across the world who accept universal jurisdiction.”

 

Tahar Boumedra, a former UN official and the lead author of the 360-page report Inquiry into the 1988 mass executions in Iran

Tahar Boumedra, a former UN official and the lead author of the 360-page report Inquiry into the 1988 mass executions in Iran

 

The Call for Justice Campaign seeks the arrests and prosecution in any court that accepts international jurisdiction with the trial in the ICC as the ultimate goal.

“July 19th marks the anniversary of the start of Iran. So-called death commissions on the orders of Ayatollah Khomeini. These commissions reportedly forcibly disappeared and extra judicially executed thousands of political dissident prisoners. The current head of the Iranian judiciary and current minister of justice have both been identified as former members of these death commissions. The Iranian judiciary is widely perceived to lack independence and fair trial guarantees. And the revolutionary courts are particularly egregious in ordering violations of human rights. All Iranian officials who commit human rights violations or abuses should be held accountable. The United States calls on the international community to conduct independent investigations and do provide accountability and justice for the victims of these horrendous violations of human rights, organized by the Iranian regime,” Morgan Ortagus, the spokesperson of the United States State Department, in a video message on Twitter.

 

Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) at the Iranian communities’ global conference upholds 30th anniversary of the massacre of 30,000 political prisoners- August 25, 2018

Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) at the Iranian communities’ global conference upholds 30th anniversary of the massacre of 30,000 political prisoners- August 25, 2018

 

Mrs. Rajavi welcomed the call by U.S. State Department for an independent investigation into the actions of the death commissions during the 1988 Massacre and demand justice for the martyrs and that the perpetrators must be brought to justice and emphasized that “Dispatching international fact-finding missions to Iran, joined by the MEK and Iranian Resistance Representatives to prevent regime’s cover-up of the 1988 Massacre (crime against humanity), especially of the graves and precise figures of the martyrs in prisons and cities across Iran is an imperative.”

Today, the Iranian regime’s human rights abuses have become an issue of international concern. Four decades of impunity have enabled the Iranian regime to establish a reign of terror inside Iran and to expand their violent ideology to neighboring countries and nations across the world. The situation will only if the regime’s crimes against humanity remain unpunished. It is upon the international community to investigate and try Iranian authorities for the 1988 massacre, the massacre of protesters in 2019, and their crimes against humanity during their brutal four-decade rule.