Finally, after more than nine months and 92 sessions, Stockholm’s District Court in Sweden handed down its landmark judgement and sentenced former Iranian prison official Hamid Noury to life imprisonment for his role in the 1988 massacre. JVMI welcomes this long-awaited act of justice which should serve as a guiding precedent to the international community for achieving accountability and justice for crimes against humanity.
Hamid Noury, acting as Deputy Assistant Prosecutor of Gohardasht Prison in 1988, was a junior figure in the massacre. Meanwhile, the most senior Iranian officials involved at the time, including current President Ebrahim Raisi, who in 1988 was a member of the Tehran Death Commission that sent thousands of political prisoners to death, continue to evade responsibility and enjoy impunity.
The failure of the international community, and in particular the United Nations, to hold the perpetrators to account for more than three decades has fuelled a culture of impunity in Iran.
Similar Death Commissions were formed in dozens of other prisons, sending political prisoners to their death. Till this judgement, the perpetrators of the 1988 massacre have never faced justice. Exercising universal jurisdiction, the Swedish judicial system has now shown the world the good practice in standing against impunity.
Last week, Hossein-Ali Nayyeri, the current Head of the Supreme Disciplinary Court for Judges and former Head of the Tehran Death Commission, broke his silence and voluntarily confessed by defiantly defending the 1988 massacre with total impunity.
Asked about the mass executions of 1988, Nayyeri stated: “In such critical circumstances, what were we to do? We had to hand down verdicts decisively. … In such circumstances, we cannot run the country by offering them hugs and kisses!”
Thanks to the impartiality and independence of the Swedish judicial system, justice and the rule of law have prevailed in the case of Hamid Noury. He was found guilty as charged and sentenced to life imprisonment. Now it is high time for the UN to establish an independent international commission of inquiry into the 1988 mass extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances, without further delay. It is also high time for UN Member States that exercise Universal Jurisdiction to open criminal investigations against the perpetrators of the 1988 massacre, including Ebrahim Raisi and Hossein-Ali Nayyeri.
In reaching their judgement to hold Hamid Noury accountable for the part he played in the summary execution of political prisoners in 1988, the Swedish judges relied partly on evidence provided by the laborious work of JVMI, published in two reports in 2017. This evidence has been cited throughout the text of the landmark judgement.
Justice for the Victims of the 1988 Massacre in Iran (JVMI)
15 July 2022
In 1988, the government of Iran massacred 30,000 political prisoners. The executions took place based on a fatwa by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini that targeted members of the main opposition group People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI or MEK). Three-member commissions known as ‘Death Commissions’ were formed across Iran sending political prisoners who refused to abandon their beliefs to execution. The victims were buried in secret mass graves. The perpetrators continue to enjoy impunity. Since 2016, the names of nearly 100 ‘Death Commission’ members have been revealed. Many still hold senior positions in the Iranian judiciary or government. They include the current President Ebrahim Raisi.