68 Belgian and international human rights and legal experts urge Belgium not to free Iran’s convicted diplomat Assadollah Assadi

Press Release

Dozens of Belgian and international human rights and legal experts sent an open letter to Prime Minister Alexander De Croo today urging the government of Belgium not to free convicted Iranian diplomat Assadollah Assadi who is serving a 20-year prison sentence for attempting to bomb an international summit.

The open letter has been signed by 68 expert officials, including current and former EU judges, and international human rights organisations. It reiterates that releasing Assadi back to Iran “would only fuel the culture of impunity that exists for Iran’s officials.”

Signatories to the open letter from 25 countries, among them 17 European countries, include 18 former senior United Nations officials including a former Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and the Legal Counsel of the UN, a former Chairman of the UN International Law Commission, a former President of the UN Special Court for Sierra Leone, and four former UN Special Rapporteurs. Other distinguished signatories include a current Special Adviser to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), a former President of the European Commission of Human Rights, and a former Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights and former Secretary General of Amnesty International.

Distinguished legal experts supporting the letter include an Ad hoc Judge of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), three former Judges of the General Court of the European Union, a former President of the OSCE Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, a former President of the Constitutional Tribunal of the Republic of Poland, and a former President of the Constitutional Court of Andorra. Other distinguished signatories include a former Foreign Minister of Canada, a former Attorney General of Portugal, France’s former Human Rights Ambassador, and a former US Ambassador to the UN Commission on Human Rights.

The 2018 event in Paris, targeted by Assadi, was organised by the opposition group National Council of Resistance of Iran and attended by tens of thousands of people, including hundreds of American and European dignitaries.

The open letter states: “Allowing Assadi to serve the remainder of his 20-year sentence in Iran, the state which was responsible for the attempted terrorist bombing, would make a mockery of the rule of law and foster further impunity for the Iranian government and its officials involved in terrorism and crimes against humanity.”

“Transferring Assadi to Iran would effectively free him from serving his sentence and would set a dangerous precedent and seriously weaken the rule of law in Europe. It would encourage more Iranian terrorism on EU soil and reassure Iranian officials that they could evade responsibility for major international crimes. Belgium would bear heavy responsibility in this regard.”

“Following a complaint filed by the NCRI and several international dignitaries, who were the potential victims of the terrorist plot, the Brussels Court of Appeal issued a temporary ruling blocking the transfer of Assadi to Iran.”

The international experts reminded Prime Minister de Croo that UN Security Council resolution 1373, which was adopted after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and which is binding on all UN Member States, decides that all States shall: “Ensure that any person who participates in the financing, planning, preparation or perpetration of terrorist acts or in supporting terrorist acts is brought to justice and ensure that, in addition to any other measures against them, such terrorist acts are established as serious criminal offences in domestic laws and regulations and that the punishment duly reflects the seriousness of such terrorist acts.”

The letter adds: “Iran is currently engaging in hostage diplomacy. It has in recent times arrested a number of European citizens or dual nationals on spurious charges. Accordingly, state media have stated plainly that these individuals would only be freed if Assadi is released back to Iran. A lenient approach in this regard would undermine the rule of law in Europe and could also lead to more acts of terrorism.”

“We strongly urge the government of Belgium to resist Iran’s hostage diplomacy tactics. Rather than helping to foster impunity in Iran by releasing a convicted terrorist, the Belgian government should unequivocally declare that Assadollah Assadi will not be released back to Iran and that he must serve the remainder of his sentence in Belgium.”

Justice for the Victims of the 1988 Massacre in Iran (JVMI)
7 September 2022


JVMI, a not-for-profit centre for research and documentation based in London which operates internationally, is one of five human rights organisations that have co-signed the open letter to the government of Belgium since it believes that the fight against impunity in Iran requires everyone to demand that European democracies uphold the rulings of their own courts and refrain from any perversions of justice.