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UN commission of inquiry needed to end impunity over 1988 massacre of political prisoners in Iran

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By Iran Probe Staff Writer

Monday, 12 June 2017

The 35th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council started its work on 6th of June and it will continue its deliberations till 23rd of this month. One of the important issues of this session is the violation of human rights in Iran. Certainly, the Iranian regime will try to prevent a resolution condemning the violation of human rights in Iran under the excuse of the attack by ISIS on June 7 in Tehran.
Simultaneously with this session, five non-governmental organizations in special consultative status the the United Nations have asked the United Nations to form an investigative committee to inquire into the massacre of 30,000 political prisoners in 1988 in Iran. Part of the written statement that has been circulated by the United Nations among all the states, participating in the session, reads as follows:

There is an urgent need to bring an end to the impunity in the Islamic Republic of Iran over the 1988 mass execution of thousands of political prisoners.

The United Nations Secretary General António Guterres in his March 13, 2017 report (A/HRC/34/40) to the UN Human Rights Council on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran mentioned that the OHCHR has received the copies of dozens of complaint letters addressed to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court from families of persons killed in the 1988 mass executions in Iran.
According to the London-based NGO Justice for the Victims of the 1988 Massacre in Iran (JVMI), which publi shed in February 2017 the findings of its investigation into the massacre, the killings took place at the end of the Iran -Iraq war when Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa (decree) ordering the execution of all political prisoners supportive of the main Iranian opposition group known as the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI or MEK). Based on Khomeini’s fatwa, “Death Commissions” across the country sent political prisoners who refused to renounce their political belief to be executed.
The failure of the international community thus far to investigate this 'crime against humanity' and to bring the perpetrators to justice has fueled a culture of impunity for Iranian officials to the point that those officials who sat on t he
1988 "Death Commission" in Tehran are today the very people standing as candidates in the Iranian Presidential election.
Without international efforts to ensure accountability over the 1988 massacre, there is a genuine threat of a drastic deterioration in the already atrocious human rights situation in Iran regardless of whoever takes over the Presidency this summer.

In a report (A/HRC/34/65) to the HRC on March 17, 2017, Ms. Asma Jahangir, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, highlighted the case of Ms. Maryam Akbari Monfared, a political prisoner who is being denied medical treatment in Iran after she published a letter demanding justice for her brothers and sisters who were reportedly executed in 1988. Ms. Akbari Monfared is serving a 15-year prison sentence in relation to her affiliation to the PMOI.
In a recent article about Rwanda, Mohammad Nourizad, a close associate to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei before the 2009 suppression of the uprising in Tehran, wrote:

“Here, in a matter of 2 or 3 months, 33,000 men, women, young and old were imprisoned, tortured and executed. Their bodies were taken to Khavaran Cemetery and barren lands by trucks and buried in mass graves, happy of what they had done…”
Iran’s 1988 massacre constitutes a crime against humanity

In a joint statement on March 8, 2017, 20 human rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, called on the Iranian authorities to stop the harassment and prosecution of human rights defenders seeking truth and justice on behalf of those who were executed in 1988.

On November 2, 2007, to mark the anniversary of this massacre, Amnesty International released a statement and referred to this day as a “massacre of the prisoners”. It added: “Amnesty International believes this has been a crime against humanity.” In the December 25, 2005 report of Human Rights Watch, these killings are also referred to as “crimes against humanity.”
On September 20, 2013, the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) qualified the events of 1988 as extrajudicial and arbitrary executions and crimes against humanity.
Need for a UN commission of inquiry

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 investigation and identifying those who abused their power to execute thousands of their ideological opponents.

According to international conventions there is no statute of limitations for crimes against humanity. It is the responsibility of the international community, including the Human Rights Council and the Security Council, to attend to this matter and to ensure that accountability is achieved. What gives this matter urgency is that the massacre and genocide of 1988 has not come to an end and still continues – for example, High Commissioner Zeid Al Hussein issued a statement deploring “mass executions” in Iran following the execution of 25 Sunnis on August 2, 2016. Additionally the perpetrators of the 1988 massacre still hold key positions and could soon be at the helm of a government that continues to murder its opponents with impunity.

Recommendations
In conclusion we recommend:
1) The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Human Rights Council place the massacre on their agenda and as a first step appoint an international commission of inquiry to investigate this atrocious crime;
2) The Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran, Asma Jahangir, carry out an inquiry into the
1988 massacre as part of her mandate;
3) The Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, Pablo de Greiff, to include the case of Iran’s 1988
massacre in his subsequent report to the HRC.

The registration number of the document in the United Nations is A/HRC/35/NGO/28. Full text of the document in English is available by clicking here.

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