The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Javaid Rehman, has released his report to the 77th session of the UN General Assembly, in which he once again calls for international accountability regarding the 1988 massacre of political prisoners in Iran.
The report, A/77/181, dated 18 July 2022, in accordance with Human Rights Council resolution 49/24, details observations regarding arbitrary deprivation of life and an increase in executions in Iran. Other aspects covered in the report include arbitrary detention, the authorities’ response to protests, restrictions on civic space actors and freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.
Paragraphs 3, 27, 43, 72, and 78 make specific references to the latest instances of ongoing human rights abuses related to the 1988 massacre of political prisoners.
The report points out that the Special Rapporteur has conducted a series of virtual interviews, including with survivors of summary executions and enforced disappearances of 1988.
It also highlights an ongoing act of ‘hostage-taking’ by the Iranian authorities aimed at forcing Sweden not to take action under universal jurisdiction against an Iranian official charged for his involvement in the summary executions and enforced disappearances of political dissidents in 1988.
The report furthermore refers to ongoing impunity and attempts to destroy evidence of the summary executions and enforced disappearances of political dissidents in 1988.
The report raises the case of political prisoner Maryam Akbari Monfared, who remains imprisoned for the thirteenth year in Semnan prison for calling for accountability for the enforced disappearance of her family in 1988.
Paragraph 78 of the report specifically appeals to the international community to call for accountability with respect to the 1988 massacre.
Excerpts of the Special Rapporteur’s report related to the 1988 massacre:
3. Despite the denial of access to the country, the Special Rapporteur was able to engage with victims of violations, their families and civil society actors. During the reporting period, the Special Rapporteur visited Sweden (May 2022), Switzerland (May–June 2022) and Ireland (June 2022) and conducted meetings with individuals, government officials and other relevant stakeholders. In addition, he conducted a series of virtual interviews, including with survivors of summary executions and enforced disappearances of 1988, lawyers and relatives of individuals subject to arbitrary deprivation of life.
26. The imposition of death sentences against foreign and dual nationals in what appears to be a means to put pressure on foreign Governments for the purpose of prisoner swaps or other returns is deeply concerning. The Special Rapporteur remains extremely concerned at the imminent execution faced by Swedish-Iranian national Ahmedreza Djalali, who has been arbitrarily detained since 2016 (A/HRC/49/75, para. 27; and A/HRC/WGAD/2017/92).
27. On his visit to Sweden in May 2022, the Special Rapporteur met with government officials and the family of Mr. Djalali. While officially denied by Iranian authorities, the threats of imminent execution of Mr. Djalali correspond closely in time with the court proceedings under universal jurisdiction in Sweden against an Iranian official charged for his involvement in the summary executions and enforced disappearances of political dissidents in the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1988. His trial in Sweden began in August 2021, with a verdict expected in July 2022. On 4 May 2022, shortly after prosecuting authorities in Sweden sought a life sentence against the Iranian official, Iranian State media warned of Mr. Djalali’s looming execution, stating that “in carrying out the death sentence of Ahmadreza Djalali, the Government of Iran will bar the Government of Sweden from undertaking further actions.” The Special Rapporteur is concerned that such instrumentalization of individuals amounts to a form of hostagetaking, and notes that the Islamic Republic of Iran is a State party to the International Convention Against the Taking of Hostages, which criminalizes acts of hostage-taking committed by State and non-State actors. The Convention defines hostage-taking as the detention of any persons accompanied by threats to kill, injure or continue to detain them unless certain conditions are met by a third party. He urges the authorities not to arbitrarily detain dual and foreign nationals, to refrain from using them as bargaining tools and to desist from violating international law by taking them as hostages.
43. Impunity and attempts to destroy evidence of past violations continued during the reporting period, including in relation to the summary executions and enforced disappearances of political dissidents in 1988. In May 2022, it was reported that the authorities had put up large concrete walls and surveillance cameras in Khavaran cemetery, which contains a mass grave believed to hold the remains of victims of summary executions and enforced disappearance of 1988. It is believed that these measures are aimed at restricting access to the site and facilitating the destruction of evidence. These measures are the latest in a series of measures to interfere with the evidence of the executions, which have included bulldozing of gravesites and forcing members of the Baha’i community to bury their dead between existing graves or at the Khavaran mass grave site (A/76/150, para. 10). In early 2022, the Special Rapporteur interviewed several survivors of the events of 1988, who provided testimony about their detention and witnessing of the proceedings before, during and after the summary executions of 1988.
72. Cases of reprisal have been reported in other contexts as well. Kamal Palangi was arrested at the funeral of his daughter on 25 January after speaking about the killing of his 7-year-old daughter after the police fired on a moving vehicle in January in Azarbayjan-e Gharbi Province. In February, security forces arrested Guzal Hajizadeh, the mother of Zeinab Jalalian, a Kurdish political prisoner, and interrogated her for several hours at the Ministry of Intelligence directorate in the city of Maku before releasing her. Prior to her arrest, a video of Ms. Hajizadeh had circulated on social media in which she called for the release of her daughter. Maryam Akarbi Monfared, remains imprisoned for the thirteenth year in Semnan prison for calling for accountability for the enforced disappearance of her family in 1988 and is deprived of adequate health care for liver disease. She has to date not received any furlough and her family’s several requests for transfer to Evin prison remain unanswered.
Recommendations for the international community
78. The Special Rapporteur urges the international community to call for accountability with respect to long-standing emblematic events that have been met with persistent impunity, including the enforced disappearances and summary and arbitrary executions of 1988 and the protests of November 2019.