During a parliamentary session attended by senior representatives from both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, legislators demanded accountability for leaders of the Iranian regime, urging them to face justice for their crimes against humanity. Professor Javaid Rehman, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation in Iran, and distinguished legal figures like Jeffrey Robertson, a Queen’s Counsel in the UK and a former judge of the United Nations, were among the participants in this crucial session.
Various stakeholders, including prominent legal experts, UK political figures, eyewitnesses to the 1988 massacre, and representatives of Iranian communities, contributed to the discussion. The conference, organized by the Iranian Women’s Society in the UK and titled “In Search of Justice for the Victims of Crimes Against Humanity in Iran,” addressed this urgent matter.
MP Alex Sobel, who presided over the initial part of the session, welcomed the UN Special Rapporteur’s call, expressing appreciation for his reports to the United Nations, which shed light on the human rights violations committed by the Iranian regime.
In his speech, UN Special Rapporteur Javaid Rehman expressed serious concern about the Iranian regime’s lack of accountability and culture of impunity. He highlighted this issue in his recent report to the UN General Assembly, specifically addressing the 1988 massacres. Mr. Rehman emphasized the violation of international law, stating that accountability for human rights violations is a core obligation for states.
Citing the absence of accountability and the prevalent culture of impunity, Mr. Rehman said, “It was tragic, but not surprising that the Iranian authorities have completely denied any responsibilities for the tragic events that have taken place in Iran since September of last year, instead blaming the so-called foreign enemies of the country. No steps have been taken to establish the accountability framework in law or policy to allow effective channels for obtaining truth, justice, and non-occurrence of serious human rights violations, including the arbitrary deprecation of life, mass arrest, torture, physical and sexual violence of girls and women.”
“Indeed, knowing the culture of impunity and the absence of any domestic avenues of accountability, I have strongly advocated the establishment of an independent international fact-finding mission, which was established by the Human Rights Council after its historic resolution on 24 November 2022,” he added.
In his speech, the UN Special Rapporteur criticized the concentration of power in the regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, under the Vilayet-e-Faqih rule since 1979. He specifically addressed the massacres of 1981 and 1988, expressing concerns about serious crimes under international law.
He stated, “The gravest tragedy in the history of Iran is the enforced disappearances and summary and arbitrary executions of thousands of individuals in 1988. In 1988, thousands of these prisoners were extrajudicially executed pursuant to a fatwa issued by the Supreme Leader of Iran and implemented across prisons in the country. There are extreme concerns about the very serious and grave crimes under international law and under international human rights and humanitarian law having been committed at that time.”
Concluding his speech UN Special Rapporteur Javaid Rehman highlighted that those Iranian state officials involved in the massacre of political prisoners continue to hold high positions in the regime. He particularly mentioned the regime’s president Ebrahim Raisi and called for the international community to either hold these perpetrators to account based on universal jurisdiction or establish an international tribunal.
During his address, Mr. Geoffrey Robertson, QC, a Human Rights Barrister and the first President of the UN Special Court for Sierra Leone, reported on his involvement in investigating the 1988 massacre in Iran. He explained how he interviewed victims and survivors 12 years ago and compiled a report.
Mr. Robertson hailed efforts made by UN Special Rapporteur Javaid Rehman on the underlying subject and criticized the lack of insight and integrity of former Special Rapporteur Reynaldo Galindo Pohl, who was willingly manipulated and influenced by the clerical regime during a visit to Iran and the notorious Evin prison following the 1988 massacre.
Mr. Robertson also discussed the conviction of Hamid Nouri in a Swedish court in 2022 for his role in the 1988 events. He questioned what further actions could be taken, including the potential use of universal jurisdiction for trials, trial in absentia for those still alive in high positions in Iran, and emphasized the need to address what he termed “the worst treatment of prisoners since the death marches in Japan, the Philippines at the end of the war with Japan.”
Chaired a conference on justice for Iran’s victims today in @UKParliament with @alexsobel. Speakers included UN@JavaidRehman @HelenaKennedyKC @joannaccherry @LiamFox @JimShannonMP +IranianWomen & Victims of 1988 massacre pic.twitter.com/YP3sx5wvhC
— Lord (David) Alton (@DavidAltonHL) November 14, 2023
Baroness Helena Kennedy, Joint Head of the Human Rights Institute of the International Bar Association a member of the House of Lords, and the highest legal advisor to the King of England, spoke at a conference about her friends imprisoned and later executed in the 1988 massacre for promoting democracy in Iran. She highlighted the regime’s leaders, including Ebrahim Raisi, enjoying impunity for crimes against a generation advocating for democracy, calling for action.
Baroness Kennedy also stressed the necessity to proscribe the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist entity in the UK and expressed her support for the Iranian women who stand up for their rights and equality.
Baroness Helena Kennedy emphasized the need for concrete actions in response to the atrocities discussed at the conference. She pointed out the challenge of giving teeth to international law but highlighted recent efforts like targeted sanctions against individuals like Ebrahim Raisi.
Lord David Alton, a member of the House of Lords and a senior member in Parliament’s Human Rights Committee, chaired the second part of the conference. In his brief statement, Lord David Alton expressed support for MP Liam Fox’s plea to the UK government to designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization.
Dr. Liam Fox, a former Secretary of State for Defence and International Trade in the United Kingdom, expressed concern about the limited attention given to the Iranian regime’s involvement in recent events in the Middle East. He stated, “We are too soft in our dealings with Tehran. We have allowed wishful thinking to take the place of critical analysis, despite the fact that the evidence has mounted about Iran’s malign influence, not just with its neighbors, not just Khamenei’s ambition to be the leader of Shia Islam, but the leader of Islam, its constant destabilization in the region and beyond, its willingness to use murder and assassination as tools politically for the state. And I cannot understand the relative silence of the British media when it comes to Iran’s crimes at home and abroad.”
Mr. Fox called for the proscription of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), aligning with the stance of the United States. He raised objections to Iran Air’s continued use of UK airports, citing its alleged role in supplying drones to Russia for actions against Ukraine. Additionally, Mr. Fox questioned the presence of three Iranian banks near the Bank of England, already outlawed in the United States.
He underscored the urgency for the UK government to take stronger action against Iran, highlighting the dangers posed not only to those within Iran but also to the broader international community. Mr. Fox urged a decisive response to counter Tehran’s influence and activities.
Today I spoke at a meeting in the U.K. parliament about the importance of holding the Iranian authorities accountable for their terrible violations of #WomensRights. #WomenLifeFreedom #MahsaAmini #ArmitaGeravand https://t.co/A6TOTPf1LW
— Joanna Cherry KC (@joannaccherry) November 14, 2023
Jim Shannon, a representative from the Democratic Unionist Party in the UK Parliament, addressed the suppression of women and the people of Iran by the Revolutionary Guards, stating, “I speak up and ask the government to ensure that the IRGC is accountable for all their crimes, and all those in government at high places are also accountable, and that they don’t think they’re going to get away with anything.”
He added, “The massacre in 1988 of 30,000 political prisoners reminds us of the start of Iran’s abuse of their own people. That was the biggest massacre of political prisoners since World War II. Any country that would put together a death commission and then use that to abuse its people has to be condemned in the eyes of the world. We are concerned that the lack of accountability for the perpetrators by the international community could embolden the Iranian authorities to commit further atrocities against dissident protesters and political prisoners. We’ve seen that in the crackdown of the nationwide protests of 2022.”
Mrs. Joanna Cherry, a member of Parliament from the Scottish National Party and interim Chair of the Human Rights Commission in the UK Parliament, expressed her backing for the UN Special Rapporteur. During her address, she reassured, “You have my support and that of my colleagues in the Scottish National Party. We need to do more to raise this issue in the House of Commons.”
Reflecting on her recent visit to Srebrenica with the Scottish Charity “Remembering Srebrenica, Scotland,” Mrs. Cherry highlighted the challenges faced by the UN Special Rapporteur, citing repeated denial of entry to Iran and cited the obstruction of his colleagues’ efforts to conduct reports in other countries. Cherry expressed interest in understanding how members of the British Parliament could support the UN in ensuring access to Iran.
Mrs. Lauren Lederle, a legal representative acting on behalf of Cherie Blair, the spouse of former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, addressed the gathering, echoing Lord Alton’s statements. She expressed regret on behalf of Mrs. Blair for her inability to attend the event but conveyed Mrs. Blair’s solidarity with organizers and all those striving for justice in Iran.
In particular, Mrs. Blair expressed her support for the Special Rapporteur, who tirelessly works to challenge immunity from punishment. Above all, Mrs. Blair sincerely empathized with all victims of human rights violations in Iran and their families.
Mrs. Lederle stated, “Of course, a crucial first step is recognizing that the 1988 massacre and that the violations that occur today are gross human rights violations and crimes against humanity. This in and out of itself is certainly powerful and it is the right thing to do, and I encourage everyone here today to call these actions for what they are. However, that is certainly not enough, and words need to be matched with concrete action.”
Drawing attention to the call by human rights bodies, including the UN Special Rapporteur, for an independent fact-finding mission, Mrs. Lederle highlighted the UK’s influential role, urging it to leverage its powerful voice in holding Iran accountable for the 1988 massacres and current human rights violations.
It was an honour to represent @CherieBlairKC on a panel w/ UNSR @JavaidRehman, @HelenaKennedyKC, Geoffrey Robertson KC, Laila Jazayeri & @DavidAltonHL, discussing the need for #accountability for the 1988 mass executions & enforced disappearances of political prisoners in #Iran pic.twitter.com/xmjF7OtLbO
— Lauren Lederle (@LaurenLederle) November 15, 2023
During the session, Leila Jazayeri, the leader of the Iranian Women’s Association in the UK, acknowledged the substantial presence of parliamentarians from various parties and both houses, emphasizing that their attendance symbolized solidarity with Professor Rehman. Mrs. Jazayeri underscored the importance of ensuring the official recognition of the 1988 massacre by the United Nations and holding the Iranian regime accountable for its crimes, including the egregious atrocity.
During the conference, Ahmad Ebrahimi, a witness to the 1988 massacre, recounted his experience, stating that he spent ten years as a political prisoner in Iran and is one of the survivors of the 1988 massacre during which 30,000 political prisoners were executed. He highlighted a recent trial in Stockholm where one of the perpetrators, Hamid Nouri, was convicted, and Ebrahimi attended the court session as one of the plaintiffs. He emphasized that the trial exposed a heinous crime that the Iranian regime had tried to conceal for over 30 years.
Reza Fallahi, another survivor of the 1988 mass executions, expressed gratitude during the session, acknowledging Javaid Rehman and the esteemed experts for echoing the voices of the victims who were brutally silenced. He emphasized their duty as survivors to be the courageous voice for the prisoners who are no longer among them. Fallahi stressed that their collective mission is to seek justice for the victims of these atrocities against humanity in Iran.
Additionally, Mohsen Zadshir, a witness to the massacre of political prisoners, was also among the attendees at this conference. This serves as a powerful testimony of the ongoing efforts to shed light on the crimes committed by the Iranian regime.