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UN Must Hold Iran Regime Accountable for 1988 Massacre, Other Human Rights Abuses – Amnesty International

Pictures of some martyrs of 1988 massacre in Iran
Exhibition on the 1988 Massacre of 30,000 political prisoners (mainly MEK members and supporters)- A display of hundreds of photos of the fallen heroes displayed on a wall- Paris - August 2017

The international community must publicly condemn the deterioration in the Iranian regime’s human rights record during Iran’s upcoming review session at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on November 8, Amnesty International said on Wednesday, November 6.

The organization urged states taking part in Iran’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) to denounce the widespread human rights violations and make concrete recommendations for the Iranian authorities to address them. 

“From horrific execution rates, to the relentless persecution of human rights defenders, rampant discrimination against women and minorities, and ongoing crimes against humanity, the catalogue of appalling violations recorded in Iran reveals a sharp deterioration in its human rights record,” said Philip Luther, Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International. 

“Iran’s upcoming UN human rights review session offers a crucial opportunity for the international community to send a strong and clear message to the Iranian authorities that its shocking disregard for human rights will not be tolerated 

“It is also an opportunity for states to place increased attention on the ongoing enforced disappearance of thousands of political dissidents over the past three decades, a crime against humanity which has been overlooked for far too long by the international community.” 

Since Iran’s human rights record was last reviewed in 2014, the level of repression by the authorities has risen significantly, Amnesty International pointed out. 

Thousands of people have been rounded up for expressing their views or taking part in peaceful demonstrations and a vindictive crackdown has been launched against human rights defenders, including activists campaigning against forced veiling laws, in order to destroy the last vestiges of Iran’s civil society. 

The authorities have further eroded fair trial rights and have executed more than 2,500 people, including juvenile offenders, in blatant violation of international law, Amnesty International said. 

In a submission to the UN Human Rights Council ahead of the session, Amnesty International concluded that Iran’s regime is “failing on all fronts” when it comes to human rights. 

The organization said Iran’s regime must lift restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, end discrimination against women and minorities, impose an immediate moratorium on the use of the death penalty, and end torture and other ill-treatment, unfair trials and ongoing crimes against humanity. 

During its last review session, Iran accepted just 130 out of the 291 recommendations it received from other states. Amnesty International’s analysis indicates that the Iranian authorities have failed to deliver on the majority of those promises.   

Iran rejected calls during its last UPR to protect the rights of human rights defenders, stop their harassment and release those imprisoned for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, Amnesty International pointed out. 

“Instead of strengthening co-operation with civil society and human rights organizations, as Iran had pledged to do, the authorities have instead further undermined these rights, intensifying their crackdown on dissent,” said Philip Luther.   

Those unjustly imprisoned include journalists, artists and human rights defenders including lawyers, women’s rights defenders, minority rights activists, labour rights activists, environmental activists and those seeking truth, justice and reparations for the 1988 prison massacre. 

Some of those jailed have been given shockingly harsh prison sentences, in some cases lasting several decades. 

Amnesty International pointed out that the authorities in Iran have a dreadful record of flouting prisoners’ right to health, deliberately denying medical care to prisoners of conscience, often as punishment, amounting to torture and other ill-treatment. Human rights defender Arash Sadeghi continues to be tortured through the denial of cancer treatment. 

Meanwhile, in a relentless execution spree, more than 2,500 people have been put to death since Iran’s last UPR session, including at least 17 who were under 18 at the time of the crime, in flagrant violation of international law, the human rights group added. 

The Iranian authorities also continue to commit the ongoing crime against humanity of enforced disappearance by systematically concealing the fate or whereabouts of several thousand imprisoned political dissidents who were forcibly disappeared and extrajudicially executed in secret between July and September 1988, Amnesty International pointed out.   

Thousands of political prisoners, primarily activists of the opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI), or Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK), were executed during the 1988 massacre following a fatwa by the regime’s Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini. 

“The Iranian authorities must reverse the catastrophic deterioration of their human rights record,” said Philip Luther.   

“That means releasing prisoners of conscience, ending the persecution of human rights defenders, granting defendants the right to a fair trial and putting an end to their grotesque use of the death penalty by establishing an immediate moratorium with a view to abolishing it completely.   

“It also means immediately disclosing the truth regarding the fate of victims of the 1988 massacres, stopping the destruction of mass grave sites containing the remains of the victims, and bringing to justice those suspected to be responsible for these crimes against humanity.” 

Background to Iran’s 1988 massacre: 

  • More than 30,000 political prisoners were massacred in Iran in the summer of 1988. 
  • The massacre was carried out on the basis of a fatwa by the regime’s Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini. 
  • The vast majority of the victims were activists of the opposition PMOI (MEK). 
  • Death Commissions approved all the death sentences. 
  • Ebrahim Raisi, a member of the Death Commissions, is today Iran’s Judiciary Chief. 
  • Alireza Avaei, a member of the Death Commissions, is today Hassan Rouhani’s Justice Minister. 
  • The perpetrators of the 1988 massacre have never been brought to justice. 
  • On August 9, 2016, an audiotape was published for the first time of Khomeini’s former heir acknowledging that the 1988 massacre took place and had been ordered at the highest levels. 

A new book “Crime Against Humanity” by the PMOI (MEK), unveiled at the European Parliament last month, lists the names of more than 5,000 MEK members out of 30,000 political prisoners who were executed in Iran during the 1988 massacre. 

The book also details the findings of 35 commissions looking into the atrocities and lists the locations of three dozen mass graves in Iran.

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