A group of UN human rights experts issued an unprecedented warning to the government of Iran that past and ongoing violations related to the massacres of political prisoners in 1988 in 32 cities of Iran may amount to crimes against humanity and that they will call for an international investigation if these violations persist.
“We have received concerning allegations of the continued refusal to disclose the circumstances of death and remains of thousands of political dissidents who were forcibly disappeared and then allegedly extrajudicially executed between July and early September in 1988 in 32 cities, and the authorities’ refusal to provide families with accurate and complete death certificate,” the letter states.
The letter specifically mentions six cases as examples of such behavior by the regime of Iran, namely Ali Asghar Zighami, Ghorban Ali Shokri, Sayed Morteza Mirmohammadi, Heibatollah Moinee, Mehdi Gharaiee, and Asghar Mahboub.
“We are further alarmed by the authorities’ refusal to provide families with accurate and complete death certificates, the destruction of mass graves, the ongoing threats and harassment of the families, the lack of investigation and prosecution for the killings, and the statements from the Government denying or trivializing the cases and equating criticizing the killings as support for terrorism,” they added.
The letter goes on to confirm that most of the bodies of the executed prisoners were discarded in mass graves. The letter warns the Islamic Republic that if its violations of human rights and its refusal to reveal the fate of the disappeared prisoners to their families persist, they will “call for an international investigation”.
The UN human rights experts have also asked Iran to provide detailed information on, among other things:
- Whether the names of the individuals executed were included in public burial registers;
- Measures taken to identify, recognize, protect and commemorate desecrated mass graves;
- Known information on the identities of those interred in each gravesite, as well as data on unidentified persons;
- Any provisions to allow families to commemorate and pay their respects at burial sites; and
- Legal provisions to protect families and human rights defenders who seek information on the fate and whereabouts of victims of enforced disappearances and who demand justice.
After the public release of the letter of UN experts condemning the Islamic Republic’s history of human rights violations, Amnesty International celebrated their attempt, calling it a “momentous breakthrough”.
“It marks a turning point in the long-standing struggles of victims’ families and survivors, supported by Iranian human rights organizations and Amnesty International, to end these crimes and obtain truth, justice and reparation,” said Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
“Top UN human rights experts have now sent an unequivocal, and long overdue, message: the ongoing crimes of mass enforced disappearances resulting from the secret extrajudicial executions of 1988 can no longer go unaddressed and unpunished”, said Diana Eltahawy.
The 18-page letter was first sent privately to the government of the Islamic Republic on September 3 and was released publicly today on the eve of International Human Rights Day.
Click here to refer to the original document
In an announcement on Wednesday, Amnesty International described the recent letter by a group of United Nations human rights experts on the 1988 massacre of Iranian political prisoners as a “turning point” in the three-decade struggle for justice for the 1988 victims.
In their letter to the regime’s authorities, the UN experts underlined that based on the facts, the 1988 massacre “may amount to crimes against humanity.” They also reiterated that if the regime refuses to conduct an investigation and “uphold its obligations under international human rights law,” they call “on the international community to take action to investigate the cases including through the establishment of an international investigation.”
Amnesty International welcomed this letter by the UN experts and described it as “a push for accountability, on the eve of International Human Rights Day.”
“The UN experts’ communication is a momentous breakthrough. It marks a turning point in the long-standing struggles of victims’ families and survivors, supported by Iranian human rights organizations and Amnesty International, to end these crimes and obtain truth, justice and reparation,” said Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa in this regard.
“For more than 30 years, the Iranian authorities have systematically concealed the circumstances surrounding their deaths and the whereabouts of their remains, thereby subjecting the victims, including those killed and their surviving families, to the crime of enforced disappearance,” Amnesty highlighted.
In the summer of 1988, the Iranian regime summarily and extra-judicially executed tens of thousands of political prisoners held in jails across Iran. The massacre was carried out on the basis of a fatwa by the regime’s then-Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini.
More than 30,000 political prisoners were executed, mostly members and supporters of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK). Many perpetrators of this massacre, including current Minister of Justice Alireza Avaei and head of the Judiciary Ebrahim Raisi, now hold top positions in Iran.
Amnesty had previously published a report, after interviewing many survivors of the 1988 massacre and the family members of the victims, entitled as “Blood-Soaked Secrets.”
“Between July and September 1988, the Iranian authorities forcibly disappeared and extrajudicially executed thousands of imprisoned political dissidents in secret and dumped their bodies, mostly in unmarked mass graves. Since then, the authorities have treated the killings as state secrets, tormenting the relatives by refusing to tell them how and why their loved ones were killed and where they are buried. No official has been brought to justice and, in some cases, those involved hold or have held positions of power in Iran. This report calls on the UN to set up an independent investigation to help bring those responsible for these abhorrent crimes to justice,” Amnesty wrote in its report.
The massacre of 1988 remains to be one of the darkest stains on the recent history of mankind, as one of the least exposed and discussed crimes against humanity.