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Former UN judges, prominent jurists & politicians demand Iran’s leaders be held accountable for 1988 massacre

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During an international conference on August 21, former UN Judges, renowned legal experts, and prominent politicians from the US, Europe, and Africa called on the international community to hold the Iranian regime’s leaders accountable for a massacre of political prisoners 35 years ago.

The conference’s participants stressed that mechanisms exist for the international community to end the impunity that Tehran has enjoyed over the years and to bring the masterminds and perpetrators of the 1988 massacre to justice.

The conference promoted the view that the massacre fits the definition of a crime against humanity and may also constitute genocide. Panelists also called attention to modern-day threats to the inalienable rights of Iranian dissidents and urged the adoption of policies that safeguard those rights, particularly for members of the principal Iranian opposition movement, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, or MEK, residing in Albania at the self-built community known as Ashraf 3.

The 1988 Massacre, Imperative for Accountability conference was held on the 35th anniversary of the 1988 massacre, in Auvers-Sur-Oise, the headquarters of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, north of Paris. A prominent writing on the side of the conference hall said: “Ongoing Crimes Against Humanity and Impunity- Honoring the sacrifices in pursuit of freedom.”

The arrest and murder of political dissidents

In July 1988, then-Supreme Leader of the Iranian regime, Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a fatwa, or a decree, the principal directive of which was that individuals imprisoned throughout the nation who remained steadfast in defense of the MEK were sentenced to death. Other categories of political prisoners were later executed as part of the same massacre.

Evidence points to the regime having planned such a massacre long before the fatwa. But that fatwa prompted the formation of “death commissions” in Tehran and across Iran. Prisoners’ fates were decided within minutes by these three- or four-member commissions. Political prisoners who refused to abandon their beliefs were sent to execution.

In the course of a few months, at least 30,000 political prisoners were massacred, more than 90 percent of them from the MEK. Many of the victims had already spent several years in prison and some had even finished their terms but were not released. The victims were mostly buried in mass graves, and parents, children, and spouses remain unaware of their loved ones’ burial places. Dozens of these mass graves have been identified over the years, but the regime has taken steps to destroy them to erase evidence of this heinous crime.

Almost all of the Iranian regime’s leaders and senior officials were implicated in the massacre, many of whom currently hold key positions. Ebrahim Raisi, the current president of the Islamic Republic, was a senior member of the “death commission” in Tehran. Yet none of these officials have been held accountable, and there has been no independent UN investigation of the massacre, and none of the regime’s senior officials have been held to account.

“Undoubtedly, this is the worst massacre of political prisoners since the end of the Second World War, whose masterminds and perpetrators have remained unpunished,” said Rajavi, “Pursuing justice for the victims of the 1988 massacre stands as the moral compass of Iranian society in its ongoing struggle and remains fresh and indelibly etched in the annals of Iranian history…Khomeini and his regime failed in their attempt to suppress resistance and revolt, and they could not make oppression and misery the eternal destiny of the Iranian people,” she added.

According to Rajavi, “On a global scale, the moment has arrived to end the four-decade-long impunity enjoyed by the clerical regime’s leaders, shielding them from prosecution and accountability for their participation in genocide and crimes against humanity. Khamenei, Raisi, and Ejeii, along with other architects of the 1988 massacre and instigators of the killing of young protesters during the recent uprisings in Iran, particularly the commanders of the IRGC, must be prosecuted by an international court. The supreme leader, president, head of the judiciary, parliamentary speaker, IRGC commanders, and heads of intelligence and security services within the clerical regime have all been implicated in crimes against humanity dating back to the early years of the regime’s rule.”

“The prosecution of these criminals sends a resounding message of justice and accountability to our global society,” Rajavi declared.

Several speakers, including David Jones, a senior member of the UK House of Commons and former UK Secretary of State for Wales, and Alejo Vidal-Quadras, the former Vice President of the European Parliament, harshly criticized the silence and inaction of the international community over the years and underscored that the events of 1988 is an open wound, the tragic impact of which cannot be separated from executions and crimes that are happening on daily basis in Iran even now. They called for an immediate international, independent investigation.

Several survivors of the 1988 massacre, including residents of Ashraf 3, provided moving testimonies about how the regime’s leaders sent 30,000 prisoners to the gallows. Victims’ families also testified that the regime has provided no details about their executions or burial sites, thus underscoring the conference’s description of the massacre as an “ongoing crime against humanity”.

In addition to Rajavi, Jones, and Vidal-Quadras, the conference’s other attendees and speakers included, Dr. Chile Eboe-Osuji, the former President of the International Criminal Court, Leila Nadya Sadat, Special Adviser on Crimes Against Humanity to the ICC Prosecutor, Wolfgang Schomburg, former Judge of the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and judge of the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, Vilenas Vadapalas, former judge of the General Court of the EU, Wiliam Schabas, Chair of the UN Independent Commission on the 2014 Gaza Conflict and former President of the International Association of Genocide Scholars, Valeriu Ciuca, former judge of the General Court of the EU, Taher Boumedra, Director of the NGO of Justice for the Victims of the 1988 Massacre in Iran, Oleksandra Matvichuk, the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, and Sir Geoffrey Nice, the lead prosecutor at the trial of Slobodan Milosevic in The Hague.

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