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Congressional Resolution Addresses Iran’s 1988 Massacre


The news regarding the Islamic Republic’s massacre of more than 30,000 political prisoners attracted the attention of the national and international media outlets.  On October 7, Dr. Majid Rafizadeh, an Iranian-American political scientist and Harvard University scholar, and president of the International American Council wrote about the human rights and political activists who are protesting the lack of legal actions taken by the International Criminal Court (ICC), and the United Nations to hold Iranian leaders accountable. They argue that the international community should prevent this crime from being forgotten, and should be the voice of the victims’ families.

The Congress resolution is being introduced by the House Homeland Security Chair, Mike McCaul, and cosponsored by Chairman Ed Royce, Ranking Member Eliot Engel, and Rules Committee Chair Rep. Sessions by which the US Congress appears to give hope to the families of victims who were hung, shot and buried in mass graves. 

McCaul quotes the late Ayatollah Hussein Ali Montazeri, who served as Khomeini’s chief deputy, and who called the 1988 massacre “the greatest crime committed during the Islamic Republic, for which history will condemn us”. 

The resolution states, “Condemning the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran for the 1988 massacre of political prisoners and calling for justice for the victims. Whereas over a four-month period in 1988, the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran carried out the barbaric mass executions of thousands of political prisoners and many unrelated political groups; Whereas according to a report by the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, the massacre was carried out pursuant to a fatwa, or religious decree, issued by then Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, that targeted the People’s Mojahedin of Iran (PMOI), also known as the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK)”. 

The first part of the new resolution highlights the crimes committed by the Islamic Republic of Iran, referencing Amnesty International and other credible sources. According to a November 2, 2007 report by Amnesty International, “between 27 July 1988 and the end of that year, thousands of political prisoners [in Iran], including prisoners of conscience, were executed in prisons nationwide.”  

The executions were ordered by a “Death Committee, consisting of a Judge from Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and a government prosecutor.  Many of those involved in the massacre currently serve high positions in Iran. Mostafa Pourmohammadi was a representative of the intelligence ministry, and was recently appointed by the so-called moderate president Hassan Rowhani to be Justice Minister. Ebrahim Raeisi was a public prosecutor and is now serving as the head of Astan Quds Razavi, which has billions of dollars in revenues. 

The executions proceeded very quickly, and some of the victims were teenagers and pregnant women. Prisoners “were executed in groups, some in mass hangings and others by firing squad, with their bodies disposed of in mass graves”. Many, including members of the Baha’i faith, were reportedly brutally tortured. The authorities kept secret the locations of the mass graves. 

In the second part, the resolution lays out recommendations to hold the Islamic Republic accountable. “Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That Congress— condemns the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran for the 1988 massacre, and for denying the evidence of this manifest set of crimes against humanity,” it says, adding that “the Administration and United States allies to publicly condemn the massacre, and pressure the Government of Iran to provide detailed information to the families of the victims about their loved ones and their final resting places”. 

Finally, the Congress should urge “the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran and the United Nations Human Rights Council to create a Commission of Inquiry to fully investigate the massacre and to gather evidence and identify the names 15 and roles of specific perpetrators with a view towards bringing them to justice”.

According to Dr. Rafizadeh, “other governments and members of the United Nations enact similar resolutions, Iranian leaders will be pressured to provide more information. In addition, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran can play a crucial role, by opening a full investigation to hold those officials accountable.”  He says that “if the West truly stands for social justice, liberty and democracy, Iran-West and Iran-US relations should not be primarily anchored in tactical and geopolitical landscapes, but should focus more fundamentally on human rights issues.”