The 1988 Massacre of Political Prisoners in Iran:
Time for the Truth, Justice, Reparation and Guarantees of Non-Recurrence
On the 29th anniversary of the 1988 mass extra-legal executions of political prisoners in Iran, JVMI believes 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 the Islamic Republic of Iran to change its policy on human rights. This is why JVMI is calling on the United Nations to launch an independent inquiry into the 1988 massacre to reveal the truth, hold the perpetrators to account and to seek justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence.
- In 1988, Iran’s regime massacred 30,000 political prisoners.
- The executions took place based on a fatwa by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini.
- “Amnesty Commissions” known as “Death Commissions” were formed across Iran sending political prisoners who refused to abandon their beliefs to execution
- Most victims were members of the opposition People’s Mojahedin (PMOI or MEK).
- The victims were buried in secret mass graves.
- The perpetrators continue to enjoy impunity.
- Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi, a member of the 1988 “Death Commission”, is now Iran’s Justice Minister.
- Ebrahim Raisi, another member of the “Death Commission”, was a candidate in the 2017 presidential election.
The emerging evidence
In 1988, Deputy Supreme Leader Ayatollah Montazeri was cast out for protesting the mass executions.
In 2016 an audio tape surfaced of Montazeri chastising members of the Tehran “Death Commission” as the executions were being carried out.
Montazeri told the “Death Commission” “The greatest crime in the Islamic Republic, for which history will condemn us, has been committed by you [the members of the Death Commission]”.
Iranien civil social demands justice
Since the summer of 2016, Iranian civil society has defied the government by breaking the taboo on openly discussing the 1988 massacre and demanding justice.
A video clip of a speech on 22 April 2017 by a student at Tabriz University challenging a top former Revolutionary Guards commander and condemning the 1988 massacre in Iran was widely circulated on social media: “Your theory and your discussions defend the horrific, inhumane, illegal and irreligious massacres of 1988. … We will neither forgive, nor forget your betrayals and crimes. Our people will avenge the pain and grief of the mothers [of the martyrs] of our nation.”
Dr. Mohammad Maleki, the first chancellor of Tehran University after the 1979 revolution and a prominent dissident in Iran, pointed out in an interview with Dorr TV on 14 August 2016 that more than 30,400 of the executed prisoners were from the PMOI, and 2000-3000 were leftist and Marxists.
Mohammad Nourizad, a close associate to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei prior to the 2009 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…”
The Iranian people used the campaign period prior to the regime’s sham election to highlight the call for justice.
In Qom in May 2017, Iranians chanted against Presidential candidate Raisi: “He is the murderer of 1988“.
Iranian political prisoner Maryam Akbari-Monfared on 15 October 2016 made an official complaint from inside prison to the Iranian judiciary over the execution of her siblings in the 1988 massacre.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said in a statement on 8 March 2017 that the Iranian authorities are repressing Akbari-Monfared and other human rights defenders seeking truth and justice over the massacre.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran in March 2017 criticized the Iranian regime for repressing families of victims.
The public attention to this subject has forced the regime to engage in massive propaganda to defend the massacre by misrepresenting the facts and blaming the victims. This demonstrates a clear case of impunity.
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 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.
A US House of Representatives bill (H.Res.188) calling for a UN probe into Iran’s 1988 massacre has thus far been co-sponsored by 56 Congressmen.
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 JVMI points out that the failure of the international community thus far to investigate this ‘crime against humanity’ and to bring the perpetrators to justice has fuelled a culture of impunity for Iranian officials who continue to violate international law and human rights.
According to international law 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 1988 mass extra-legal executions have not come to an end. Iran continues to execute following unfair trials.
The perpetrators of the 1988 massacre still enjoy impunity and most of them are currently holding key positions in the Iranian administration.
The JVMI calls on the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, HE Zeid Al Hussein to order a Commission of Inquiry into the 1988 massacre based on the UN Economic and Social Council Resolution 1989/65 which states in principle 11: “In cases in which the established investigative procedures are inadequate because of lack of expertise or impartiality, because of the importance of the matter or because of the apparent existence of a pattern of abuse, and in cases where there are complaints from the family of the victim about these inadequacies or other substantial reasons, Governments shall pursue investigations through an independent commission of inquiry or similar procedure. Members of such a commission shall be chosen for their recognized impartiality, competence and independence as individuals. In particular, they shall be independent of any institution, agency or person that may be the subject of the inquiry.”
Justice for the Victims of the 1988 Massacre in Iran (JVMI)
3 August 2017