UN must act on new report detailing destruction of mass graves related to the 1988 massacre in Iran

JVMI welcomes the new joint report today by Amnesty International and Justice For Iran highlighting the Iranian authorities’ deliberate desecration and destruction of mass graves related to the 1988 massacre of thousands of political prisoners. JVMI urges UN High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein to support the launch of an independent inquiry to bring justice for the victims of that crime against humanity.

The 31-page report, “Criminal cover-up: Iran destroying mass graves of victims of 1988 killings”, reveals that the Iranian authorities are bulldozing, constructing buildings and roads, dumping rubbish or building new burial plots over mass grave sites. These tactics are destroying key evidence that could be used to establish the truth about the scale of the crimes and obtain justice and reparations for the victims and their families. These sites have been under constant surveillance by security agencies, which suggests that judicial, intelligence and security bodies are involved in the decision-making processes related to their desecration and destruction.

The JVMI separately carried out a lengthy investigation of the 1988 massacre throughout 2017, interviewing survivors, victims’ relatives and eye-witnesses, and analysing witness reports, photographic evidence and admissions and testimony from current and former Iranian officials who played a role in the mass killings.

The JVMI published two separate reports in 2017 listing 59 mass graves in Iran where victims of the 1988 massacre are believed to have been secretly buried. The findings were based on eye-witness reports, information provided by family members of victims and documentary and photographic evidence from the sites. The reports also listed 85 members of the “Death Commissions” that sent prisoners to their deaths and 14 key decision makers who supervised the massacre. Several of the perpetrators are currently holding key positions within the Judiciary and other branches of the Government. The JVMI’s investigation further concluded that the number of political prisoners extra-judicially killed in 1988 is in the region of 30,000.

Following the publication of the report today about the destruction of the mass graves, JVMI’s Director Tahar Boumedra said: “I call on the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to support the launch of an international inquiry into the 1988 massacre.”

“Nearly 30 years after 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 Iran to change its policy on human rights”, he said.


In 1988, the government of Iran massacred 30,000 political prisoners. The executions took place based on a fatwa by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini. Khomeini’s decree called for the execution of all political prisoners affiliated to the main opposition group People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI or MEK) who remained loyal to the organisation. Three-member commissions known as a ‘Death Commission’ were formed across Iran sending political prisoners who refused to abandon their beliefs to execution. Political prisoners affiliated to other groups were executed in a second wave about a month after the killings began. The victims were buried in secret mass graves. The perpetrators continue to enjoy impunity and many still hold senior positions in the Iranian Judiciary or Government. They include the current Justice Minister of Iran.

Link to joint report by Amnesty International and Justice For Iran: https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/mde13/8259/2018/en/

The JVMI in 2017 published an online interactive map of the 59 mass graves: https://iran1988.org/interactive-map-mass-graves-irans-1988-massacre-photos/

Link to JVMI’s 1st report, “Inquiry into the 1988 mass executions in Iran“: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B205uYOXZgtPbUdRTVQtUGFCU2s

Link to JVMI’s 2nd report, “The 1988 Massacre in Iran – Evidence of a Crime Against Humanity“: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B205uYOXZgtPbjNabjJmaG1ZOWc

Factsheet on the 1988 massacre: https://iran1988.org/1988-massacre/

Justice for the Victims of the 1988 Massacre in Iran (JVMI)
30 April 2018