In a conference held at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva on Friday, international human rights experts called for an end to the impunity enjoyed by Iranian regime officials in regard to atrocious human rights conditions in Iran, most specifically those involved in the summer 1988 massacre.
Over 30,000 political prisoners, mostly members and supporters of the Iranian opposition group People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI, Mujahedin-e Khalq or MEK), were sent to the gallows in the summer of 1988 in a matter of a few months.
“Why should there now be a tribunal on the crime against humanity committed in 1988? First, because lawyers have examined evidence and know beyond doubt that a crime was committed. If Iran disputes that, we have a process for that,” said Kirsty Brimelow, QC, international human rights lawyer, in her opening remarks.
In July 1988, Iran’s then supreme leader, Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a fatwa against members and sympathizers of MEK held in tens of thousands in the state prisons. There were no trials. There were two-minute hearings. There was no investigation. A series of questions were asked designed to determine whether the person was loyal to Khomeini. If loyalty was not enough, the person would be hanged or sent to the death squad.
In 2017, the late Asma Jahangir, then UN special rapporteur on Iran, reported on the mass executions to the General Assembly. She detailed the massacre of 1988 as extrajudicial killing. The new special rapporteur has not followed through with the work of his predecessor.
“The UN lacks consistency in addressing human rights issues. On the 1988 massacre, impunity has been dropped between two special rapporteurs. This allows Iran to continue committing crimes. I call on member states to discuss the 1988 massacre with the Special Rapporteur to make sure it’s not dropped again. Failure to investigate is also a crime,” affirmed Alejo Vial Quadras, President of the international committee In Search of Justice (ISJ).
The Iranian regime refuses to declare the fate of the victims, which causes more suffering for their families.
“I am here not only as an NCRI member but also as a witness. I escaped Khomeini’s prison; else I would have been one of the victims of the 1988 massacre. I was sentenced to eight years in prison. After the execution of my sister, I managed to escape prison after three years. My father was sent to prison in my place,” said Behzad Naziri, a member of the Iranian opposition coalition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).
“From 2016 to 2019, great work has been done. For 30 years, this event has been kept silent. But the question has been brought to the surface, thanks to the great work of activists, jurists, politicians, parliamentarians and other personalities. We have managed to force the UN to move on this issue, which has been kept silent” he further added.
“The crime is there; the laws are there. The UN has set a framework for investigating these crimes. Hard evidence is here. The civil society, the Iranian civil society has also widely reported the massacre. The UN Special Rapporteur has also compiled a report on this issue. Ms. Jahangir had the courage to file this report,” affirmed Tahar Boumedra, former Director of the Human Rights Office in UNAMI and an expert on the death penalty.
“The current Special Rapporteur who dropped this issue from his report might have been under some kind of pressure to drop this from his agenda. Why has he abandoned the issue of the 1988 massacre? He must reply to the families of the victims, as well as the massacre survivors.
I would like to remind the families of the victims that they need to report and write massively. He will have to be accountable and bring this in his report. We also need the families to inform the whole system of the UN,” he added.
“30,000 human beings are only the tip of the iceberg. 120,000 of the MEK members have been killed. Back then Maurice Copithorne dropped the issue of the massacres because he thought it had already been dealt with by his predecessors,” said Alfred-Maurice de Zayas, former UN expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order.
“The High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Human Rights Council must investigate this crime against humanity. The Special Rapporteur on truth and justice, as well as the rapporteur on torture and arbitrary detention, must also look into this. This is a matter for the Human Rights Council and the UPR,” he added.
The campaign is supposed to pave the way for further general investigation into the mullahs’ regime human rights record.
Former Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi was the guest speaker.
“Yesterday, the European Parliament condemned the Iranian regime’s human rights violations. The heart and voice of Europe are expressed by human rights. Human rights must be a priority between EU institutions and the outside world. The EU has a fundamental role to promote freedom, rule of law, and protect freedoms,” he said.
“The [UN] Human Rights Council must discuss this. When we look at the geopolitical situation in the Gulf, there is no doubt that we must focus much more on human rights when we negotiate with Iran. Human rights and fundamental freedoms must come back to the center of this playing field,” he added.
Three women, all victims of the regime’s atrocities in prisons and who had lost several family members to the extrajudicial executions testified during the conference.
Sima Mirzaee, a family member of 14 individuals executed by the Iranian regime, Massoumeh Joushaghani, a former political prisoner in Iran and Azadeh Alemi of the Women’s Human Rights International Association gave firsthand testimonies of the horror they had endured.
“We are witnessing progress in seeing the perpetrators of this crime being brought before a court. Since launching the campaign for justice for the victims of 1988 massacre, many of the perpetrators have been exposed and the crime has been documented,” said Swiss MP Laurence Fellman Rielle.
Amnesty International has also rallied to expose this crime. It has underlined that if the perpetrators are not held to account before a tribunal, more crimes and massacres will take place. Amnesty called it a crime against humanity. Amnesty has also gathered testimonies from hundreds of witnesses.
Originally published at http://freedomstarblog.wordpress.com on September 22, 2019.