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Geoffrey Robertson: what happened in 1988 was a crime against humanity

NCRI – New York, United Nations, on Tuesday September 20, Geoffrey Robertson renowned human rights barrister, academic, author and broadcaster attended a demonstration, organized by the Organization of Iranian American Communities in the U.S., in which thousands of Iranian-Americans strongly criticized the visit to the United Nations by the Iranian regime’s president Hassan Rouhani and also urged the UN Security Council to scrutinize the shocking massacre of 30,000 political prisoners in Iran in 1988, seen as one of the biggest human carnages since World War II.

Following is the full text of Mr. Geoffrey Robertson speech

It is ladies and gentlemen a great privilege to be here, and here in the shadow of the United nations which has much work to do, let me explain briefly why.

The killing of prisoners is the worst of all war crimes, it has been for hundreds of years. The prisoner is utterly at the mercy of the state. That is why international law, from the 15th century, has given a special protection to prisoners of war, Shakespeare henry the 5th, in those times you couldn’t kill a prisoner. The liber code in 1863, in America, America’s war code, made it absolutely criminal to kill a surrendered prisoner. The Geneva conventions in 1949, the basis of international law, make it an international crime to kill a prisoner.

There have been three since then, since the second world war, there have been 3 heinous and hideous examples of that.

The first was the Japanese army that war marched, death marched, 7000 American soldiers to their death in 1946. What happened to the Japanese commanders who ordered that crime, they were tried, and they were convicted and they were executed.

The second example was Srebrenica, in 1992 when 7000 Muslim men and boys were killed. What happened to those commanders who gave the orders to Millovech and Karadzic? They are on trial at The Hague at this time. They were punished and will be punished.

The third, the worst example, came in 1988 when thousands of upon thousands of prisoners who were in the first place members of the MEK then they came to the atheists, for the communists, for the liberals. People who were in prison for their politics, many of them had served their sentence, they’d been arrested in 1981 and were being held in prison although they finished their sentence, were killed, monstrously, and this is why, this dreadful act has never been punished. Has never even been investigated apart from an investigation that I did at the behest of the Boroumand foundation a few years ago.

I traveled all over Europe to meet survivors of this terrible period. People who were in prison and had escaped or somehow avoided being killed. Let me read you the conclusion of my report.

Late in July 1988 as the war with Iraq was ending, prisons in Iran that were crammed with opponents suddenly went into lockdown. All family visits were canceled television and radios switched off. Prisoners were kept in their cells not allowed exercise or trips to the hospitals. The only permitted visitation was from a delegation, turbaned and bearded, which came in black government BMW’s a religious judge, a public prosecutor, and an intelligence chief. Before them were paraded briefly and individually, almost every prisoner, and then thousands of them who were being jailed for adherence to the MEK.
The delegation and but one question for these young men and women, most of them detained since 1981, merely for taking part in street protests or possession of political reading material, and although they didn’t know it, on their answer their life would depend. Those who by their answer by evidence any continuing affiliation with the MEK were blindfolded and ordered to join a congo line that led straight to the gallows. They were hung from cranes 4 at a time, or in groups of 6, from ropes hanging from the front of the stage of the assembly hall, some were taken to army barracks at night, directed to make their wills, and then shot by firing squad. Their bodies were doused with disinfectant, packed in refrigerator trucks and buried at night in mass graves.

Months later their families, desperate for information about their children, would be handed a plastic bag with their few possessions they would be refused any information about the location of the graves, and ordered never to mourn them in public. By mid-august 1988 thousands of prisoners had been killed in this manner by the state. Without trial, without appeal and utterly without mercy.

And my report that was the conclusion on the facts. And my report was published as a book, Mullahs without Mercy. That mercilessness continued and thanks to Montazeri’s intervention, and we’ve recently had a recording of how he told Nayyeri and Pour Mohammadi and the prosecutors, you are bringing shame forever on Iran. By killing these prisoners. Thanks to his intervention, there was a lull for 2 weeks and then the killings began again, the killings of all the Marxists and all the communists and all who were suspected of being Mohareb, enemies of the state, or suspected of not worshipping in the way the mullahs ordered.

And so at the end of the day you have the worst war crime in modern history. And what has happened, why are all those people who are still prominent in the Iranian regime, the minister of justice was one of the death committee judged, Pour Mohammadi, Ardebili, Nayyeri. They’re all in high positions. They are 50-60 people, who were deeply involved in the bloody slaughter of the innocent prisoners, who are now in control of the state. Their supreme leader was president at the time, he gave the orders. He is a mass murderer. Rouhani, what was he doing August till October 1988. He was an assistant of Rafsanjani who was himself deeply involved.

It is time for the Prime Minister Rouhani, who is here, to explain what he was doing. Because the problem is and the reason why it’s appropriate to be here, is that the UN turned a blind eye. In 1988 in 1989 it knew. The New York Times in September, although the regime tried to cover it, the New York Times reported the mass graves that were being filled with hundreds of prisoners’ bodies. So it was known at the United Nations, unfortunately, it had a special representative for Iran. He was sadly a naïve diplomat, a person who was completely in awe of the Iranian government, believed their lives, did not – he actually when they allowed him to go to Evin prison, do you know they put on a band concert, yes they had a band, just as the Nazi’s would lead observers to the concentration camps played through by a band, they played the band for this useless naïve UN representative. They had actors dressed up prisoners who told him the food is superb, and the silly idiot actually put this in his report. And worst of all he never met the man who had invited him to Iran, the man who wanted to tell him the truth. The man who now so many years whose voice comes through on recordings recently released, telling that truth. Ayatollah Montazeri was not allowed to meet the UN representative. And the pathetic UN representative did not demand to meet him and did not cover the killings again in his report. The UN is at fault, the UN in 1988 and 1989 turned a blind eye to the most wicked war crime of all. And now we have Iran with the perpetrators of that crime still in power, which has more executions comparatively than any other country, which still goes on with brutality which still has brutality at the heart of the system. The very last example, let me mention the case of Nazaneen Radcliff, the utterly innocent charity worker dual national, who took her British Tehran 6 months ago, to show her parents. And was arrested and the baby arrested at the airport, charged with spying, a ridiculous charge, utterly false. Secretly tried in 5 minutes convicted and sent to jail for 5 years last week. That is an example of the cruelty that continued daily in Iran. And why doesn’t Britain protest? This is the problem. Britain’s pathetic and cowardly government will not stand up to the mullahs, not a squeak of protest, no demanding that her husband should be allowed to visit her, no demanding that the British counsel should be allowed to visit. Iran’s in breach of international law by refusing to allow them. But you see that British airways is just flying back to Iran, British firms are trying to do business with Iran, making money of Iran. That’s what happens when you overlook human rights. And President Obama and America overlooked them when negotiating with Iran to relieve the sanctions. What we should have had was an insistence that Iran give up and allow to investigated the perpetrators of 1988 and it should have changed its inhuman policies. But for the nuclear negotiators, that sadly did not figure. And they are very much to be condemned.

So let me finish by saying this, what happened in 1988 was a crime against humanity. Crimes against of humanity are of a special hideousness. They cannot be forgotten and they cannot be forgiven. There is a duty by the world community, represented by the United Nations, to take action. It’s too for the international criminal court because that can only deal with events after 2002, but it’s perfectly possible for the UN and security council should do it now, should set up an international ad hoc tribunal, like the one in Sierra Leone, that I was president of, like the one in Cambodia. To investigate and punish those who are guilty of the 1988 prison massacres. That is the duty that is on the security council, that is the duty now, President Rouhani is before it. There must be for crimes humanity, There must be an investigation, there must be punishment.