By Staff Writer, Iran Probe
Tuesday, 12 August 2017
The United Nations Human Rights Council opened its thirty-sixth regular session on 11 September 2017 hearing an update by Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, on the situation of human rights worldwide and on the activities of his office.
High Commissioner Zeid voiced concerns about intimidation and bullying acts committed by governments against human rights defenders and non-governmental organizations. On Iran, he said, it “continues to severely restrict freedom of opinion and expression. My Office has received numerous reports of human rights defenders, journalists and social media activists being arrested and detained. Ill-treatment of prisoners is widespread, and in addition the judiciary continues to sentence people to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, including amputation of limbs and blinding. Iran also remains the country with the highest reported rate of executions per capita. Many of those executed are drug offenders not guilty of "most serious crimes" under the terms of international law. Since the beginning of the year at least four children have been put to death, and at least 89 other children remain on death row. Last month, the Iranian Parliament passed a long-awaited amendment which raises the threshold for capital punishment in drug trafficking cases, although some narcotics offenders will still face the possibility of capital punishment. The amendment now awaits approval from the Guardian Council.”
At the same time the Human Rights Council distributed a written statement by three non-governmental organizations titled, “The 1988 Massacre of Political Prisoners in Iran: Time for the Truth, Justice, Reparation and Guarantees of Non-Recurrence”
The three NGOs, France Libertés : Fondation Danielle Mitterrand, Women's Human Rights International Association and Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l'amitié entre les peuples emphasized that “On the 29th anniversary of the 1988 mass extra-legal executions of political prisoners in the Islamic Republic of Iran, we believe that until the full truth is unveiled and the perpetrators are held to account for their crimes, there will be no incentive for the government of Iran to change its policy on human rights. This is why we are calling on the United Nations to launch an independent inquiry into the 1988 massacre to reveal the truth, hold the perpetrators to account and seek justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence.”
The NGOs outlined the following facts:
- In 1988, the government of Iran massacred 30,000 political prisoners.
- The executions took place based on a fatwa by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini.
- Three-member commissions known as a ‘Death Commission’ were formed across Iran sending political prisoners who refused to abandon their beliefs to execution
- The victims were buried in secret mass graves.
- The perpetrators continue to enjoy impunity.
- In the past year, the names of nearly 100 'Death Commission' members have been revealed. Many still hold senior positions in the Iranian judiciary or government.
Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) have all described Iran’s 1988 massacre as a ‘crime against humanity’.
UN Secretary General António Guterres in a 13 March 2017 report to the Human Rights Council mentioned that the OHCHR has received the copies of dozens of complaint letters addressed to the High Commissioner for Human Rights and to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court from families of persons killed in the 1988 mass executions.
Time for the UN to assume its responsibility
What happened in Iranian prisons in 1988 remains a deep scar on the body and soul of the Iranian people. The only way to soothe this wound would be a comprehensive and independent investigation to identify those who abused their power to execute thousands of their ideological opponents.
In a report published in February 2017 (INQUIRY INTO THE 1988 MASS EXECUTIONS IN IRAN), the London-based NGO, Justice for the Victims of the 1988 Massacre in Iran (JVMI), points out that the failure of the international community thus far to investigate this ‘crime against humanity’ and to bring the perpetrators to justic.