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Significance of UN Experts’ Letter on 1988 Massacre: Victory for Justice Seeking Movement


The letter by seven United Nations Special Rapporteurs, made public on Wednesday, on the 1988 massacre of Iranian political prisoners is a significant development in the justice-seeking movement for the victims of this crime against humanity.

In the summer of 1988, the Iranian regime massacred over 30,000 political prisoners, mainly members and supporters of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).

The UN Special Rapporteurs who co-signed the letter are Luciano Hazan, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances; Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Clement Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association; Javaid Rehman, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran; Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism; Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; and Fabian Salvioli, Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation, and guarantees of non-recurrence.

UN Special Rapporteurs
UN Special Rapporteurs

The UN Special Rapporteurs have underlined if the Iranian regime continues to ignore its obligations under international human rights law, they urge the international community to launch its investigation into the massacre, “including through the establishment of an international investigation.”

They also underlined the 1988 massacre “may amount to crimes against humanity” and “the systematic concealment of the fate and whereabouts of the victims amounts to an ongoing crime against humanity of enforced disappearance.”

Robert A. Destro, the United States Department of State’s Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, underlined the need for an independent investigation into the 1988 massacre, highlighting that the mullahs’ regime will continue to refuse to investigate its crime.

“The United States echoes the UN’s call for an independent investigation into mass disappearances and summary executions in Iran in 1988, though the alleged involvement of current senior officials makes it highly unlikely the regime will investigate itself. The regime has failed to provide families an accounting of the fate of their loved ones. Instead, they threaten families and desecrate grave sites. Iranians deserve justice. We urge the international community to hold the regime accountable to the UN’s demands,” he wrote on Twitter.

Amnesty International described this letter as a “turning point” in the three-decade struggle for justice.

The Justice Seeking Movement

The Justice Seeking Movement for the victims of the 1988 massacre began in 1988, when on August 17 and August 25, the Iranian Resistance Leader Massoud Rajavi wrote letters to the UN Secretary-General, urging for international action to stop the massacre.

This movement reached a new height in 2016, when the opposition president, Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, demanded the international community to hold the mullahs’ regime to account for the 1988 massacre.

The Iranian Resistance has demanded an international tribunal to investigate this “worst crime against humanity since the concentration camps of the Second World War,” as described by Geoffrey Robertson, QC, a former appeal judge at the UN Special Court for Sierra Leone.

Now, the UN experts’ new letter is a significant step in holding the regime to account, and for the prospects of the establishment of international tribunals for the regime’s crimes in the past four decades, mainly the 1988 massacre.

This letter is significant for several reasons:

  • The goal of the Iranian Resistance’s activities was that the international community and official organizations involve themselves in the investigation of the 1988 massacre, and now they have.
  • In their letter, these UN Special Rapporteurs highlighted that the regime’s current and former top officials were involved in this crime. Meaning the regime should be held accountable in its entirety.
  • For the first time, these UN experts have urged the regime to “provide information on the alleged refusal to provide families with accurate and complete death certificates” and “provide information on the steps taken to identify grave sites.”
  • They also demanded the regime to answer for its crime, which has been the Iranian Resistance’s demand for years.
  • They have underlined if the regime fails to answer, the international community shall act.

Of course, the real reason for this victory is the steadfastness of the martyrs of the 1988 massacre, who refused to succumb to the regime’s demands of disavowing their beliefs. The flame of this struggle has been ablaze ever since in the tireless efforts of the Iranian Resistance to seek justice for these martyrs.