In a letter to the United Nations Human Rights Council and the International Criminal Court, one hundred Iranians living outside Iran, including several prominent civil, academic, and human rights figures, have asked for the recognition of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s prison massacre of 1988 as a crime against humanity.
Many of those executed in 1988 were buried in unmarked mass graves in Khavaran Cemetery
According to the authors of this letter, “the legal basis for the court’s jurisdiction regarding Iran would be a referral by the UN Security Council under Chapter VII of the UN Charter but political interests of the members with veto power prevent the realization of this option.”
“We, the undersigned, consider the 1988 massacre of Iranian political prisoners to be a clear case of Crime against Humanity. We urge international human rights organizations and the United Nations Human Rights Council to condemn the Islamic Republic of Iran for its systematic hostility to the civil and political rights of its citizens,” states the letter.
The letter emerged a few weeks after an audio recording of a 1988 meeting between Ayatollah Hosseinali Montazeri, then heir apparent to Islamic Republic of Iran founder Ayatollah Khomeini, and a group of high-level state officials and clerics who orchestrated the mass executions and later became known as the “Death Committee,” was published.
In this meeting, the late Ayatollah Montazeri called the group’s decision to issue death sentences for prisoners who were already serving prison terms issued by the Iranian Judiciary “the biggest crime in the Islamic Republic - a crime that will condemn us all in history.”
Following publication of this audio file, some officials and even Mostafa Pourmohammadi, one of the individuals present at the meeting who is now Iran’s Justice Minister in President Hassan Rouhani’s cabinet, defended the executions.
Some of the signatories of the letter to the Human Rights Council include Shirin Ebadi (Nobel Laureate), Hadi Ghaemi (Human Rights Advocate), Mehrangiz Kar (Human Rights Lawyer and Author), Esfandiar Monfaredzadeh (Composer), Nasser Pakdaman (Writer), Nayereh Tohidi (Professor) and Mohsen Yalfani (Writer). Below is the complete text of the letter and the full list of signatories.
Below is the complete text of the letter and a list of signatories.
Appeal To the International Criminal Court & The UN Human Rights Council
100 Iranian Professionals call for the recognition of the 1988 Massacre of Iranian Political Prisoners as Crime against Humanity
To: International Criminal Court & the Human Rights Council
From: 100 signatories of this statement
Subject: Regarding the Massacre of 1988 in the Islamic Republic of Iran
Date: September 7, 2016
The Islamic Republic of Iran, in its 37-year history, has executed more than 15,000 political prisoners. In 1988, Ayatollah Khomeini, the country’s Supreme Leader at the time, ordered mass execution of political prisoners. According to Amnesty International, at least 4,482 young men and women disappeared during a two-month period in 1988. Many of the executed prisoners had already served their sentences. The bodies of the victims were buried in unmarked graves and their families were never informed of their whereabouts. In 2012, a people’s tribunal, presided over by respected international judges, investigated these crimes and found Iran’s leaders guilty of crime against humanity. Iran’s clerical leaders remained silent about the massacre for nearly thirty years.
Now, an audiotape of a meeting on August 15, 1988, reveals that Ayatollah Ali Montazeri, then designated successor to Khomeini, addresses the clerics who carried out the executions and says: “let me be frank with you. You have committed the biggest crime in the Islamic Republic - a crime that will condemn us all in history.” Montazeri’s words led Ayatollah Khomeini to dismiss him as his heir apparent and pave the way for emergence of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as his successor. Montazeri died in 2009 and his son, Ahmad, posted the thirty-year old audiotape on his website on August 9, 2016.
Montazeri’s description of the massacre compelled Iran’s clerical authorities, including the chief of Judiciary Sadegh Larijani, to admit and defend the executions. The audiotape also reveals the names of the clerics who carried out the criminal acts. They include Mostafa Pourmohammadi, then deputy intelligence minister and now minister of justice in President Rouhani’s cabinet; Hussein Ali Nayeri, then the religious judge at Evin Prison and now a high court judge; and Ebrahim Raeesi, then deputy prosecutor of Tehran and now head of Astan Quds Razavi - one of the largest Shiite shrine-based religious institutions in Iran.
As we approach the 30th anniversary of the massacre, the families of the victims are still waiting for justice. Every year while they gather to demand the truth from the government, they are harassed and violently dispersed by security forces. This is an example of the behavior that impels Iran’s theocratic dictatorship to reject the legitimacy of both the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Other reasons for Iran’s refusal to join the ICC have to do with penalties provided in Iran’s criminal law, including whipping, stoning, cutting off of body parts and mistreatment of minorities. While they see no problem in Muslims committing mass murder against other Muslims, Iran’s theocrats maintain that Non-Muslim judges cannot judge Muslims.
In 2009, following the suppression of a popular movement against the rigged presidential election, more than 200 Iranian lawyers and human rights activists appealed to the ICC prosecutor to investigate the violence committed by Iran’s security forces. Those who took this initiative knew that the ICC is procedurally barred from responding to their request. They simply wanted to inform the international community about the Iranian government’s relentless violence against the civil society. Canada is the only country that condemns Iran’s 1988 massacre of political prisoners as crime against humanity. The legal basis for the court's jurisdiction regarding Iran would be a referral by the UN Security Council under Chapter VII of the UN Charter but political interests of the members with veto power prevent the realization of this option.
We, the undersigned, consider the 1988 massacre of Iranian political prisoners to be a clear case of Crime against Humanity. We urge international human rights organizations and the United Nations Human Rights Council to condemn the Islamic Republic of Iran for its systematic hostility to the civil and political rights of its citizens.
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