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UN Expert Decries Systematic Impunity in Iran and Worsening Human Rights Situation

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On Monday, Iran’s ongoing human rights violations were again brought under the spotlight during the United Nations General Assembly’s human rights committee. Javaid Rehman, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran, expressed concern over the increasing human rights violations in Iran, underlining that “the human rights situation in Iran remains grim.”  

In his speech, Rehman once again referred to the crisis of impunity in Iran under the mullahs’ regime and how human rights abusers hold top positions in the regime. Mr. Rehman underlined that Iran’s deplorable human rights situation “aggravated by the fact that individuals who face allegations of being involved in the commission of serious human rights violations remain in powerful positions, including at the highest level of public office.”  

The impunity crisis in Iran peaked in June when Ebrahim Raisi was selected as the regime’s president. Raisi is one of the leading officials involved in the 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners.  

When Raisi was announced to be the regime’s next president, Amnesty International’s Secretary General Agnès Callamard said: “Ebrahim Raisi has risen to the presidency instead of being investigated for the crimes against humanity of murder, enforced disappearance and torture, is a grim reminder that impunity reigns supreme in Iran.” 

Many human rights organizations, including Amnesty and the Iranian Resistance, underlined that Raisi’s presidency would immediately aggravate Iran’s general human rights situation.  

The Iranian Resistance reported on October 24 that “At least 31 prisoners have been hanged in various Iranian cities in the past 30 days alone, bringing to at least 141 the number of executions after Ebrahim Raisi and Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei became President and the Judiciary Chief, respectively.”  

Mr.  Rehman also referred to the rising number of executions in Iran, describing it as “ an alarming rate,” adding that “the absence of official statistics and lack of transparency around executions means that this practice escapes scrutiny resulting in serious abuses preventing accountability.” 

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Rehman attributed this lack of accountability several times, criticizing the impunity human rights violators experience in Iran under the mullah’s regime.  

Mr. Rehman said: “I remain deeply concerned about the lack of any progress or political will to conduct investigations, let alone ensure accountability, for serious human rights abuses in Iran. As I have described in my report, there is widespread and systemic impunity in the country for gross violations of human rights; both past instances of serious and substantial violations of human rights, including enforced disappearances and summary executions in 1988, as well as the recent cases, particularly the use of excessive and lethal force by state security forces during the November 2019 protests.”  

Many countries shared Mr. Rehman’s concerns over the worsening human rights situation in Iran. The representative of Canada especially condemned the 1988 massacre of political prisoners. “We also share the concerns on the reported attempts by Iranian authorities to continue to destroy evidence of past violations, including mass, extrajudicial executions of political dissidents in 1988,” said the Canadian Representative, adding, “Canada condemns the mass murder of political prisoners in Iran in 1988.”  

The Iranian regime executed over 30,000 political prisoners in the summer of 1988. Most of the victims were the members and supporters of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), Iran’s principal opposition group.  Despite the ongoing calls for accountability over the 1988 massacre inside Iran and abroad, the Iranian regime’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, chose Raisi as his regime’s president.  

In 1988, the international community ignored the repeated calls by the Iranian Resistance to investigate the ongoing massacre. This inaction has sadly continued to this date. In a letter published in December 2020, seven U.N. experts underlined that this failure to act, “had a devastating impact on the survivors and families as well as on the general situation of human rights in Iran and emboldened Iran to continue to conceal the fate of the victims and to maintain a strategy of deflection and denial that continue to date.”  

The violent crackdown on protesters in November 2019, the high number of executions, and Raisi’s presidency are some examples of the devastating impact the international community’s inaction has had in the last three decades.  

The world community must hold the Iranian regime to account for its crimes against humanity. The world powers could start by prosecuting Raisi and other top officials involved in the 1988 massacre, which according to many legal experts was a genocide.