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Press Conference Repeats Call to End Decades of Impunity in Iran

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On Wednesday, the National Council of Resistance of Iran held a press conference in the United Kingdom to highlight recent, formal requests for an investigation into crimes against humanity committed by the regime’s new president, Ebrahim Raisi. The latest of these requests was sent to Police Scotland’s Chief Constable Iain Livingstone by a former Scottish representative to the European Parliament, Struan Stevenson, in response to the news that Raisi may attend the COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow next month.

“It is essential that Police Scotland seek the prosecution of Raisi,” Stevenson wrote in an editorial for The Scotsman. “There must be no impunity for mass murderers like this man.” He reiterated this message in Wednesday’s press conference at the Village Hotel in Glasgow, sitting alongside Hossein Abedini, a member of the NCRI’s Foreign Affairs Committee. Stevenson was also joined by Tahar Boumedra, a former UN human rights official who now heads the Justice for the Victims of the 1988 Massacre in Iran, as well as by three of the five survivors of the 1988 massacre who signed their names to the 111-page dossier that Stevenson submitted to Police Scotland.

The press conference noted that similar dossiers have been presented to authorities in other Western nations, with the intention of facilitating multiple investigations into Raisi’s past human rights abuses and crimes against humanity. These, Stevenson said, would ultimately make it easier for the International Criminal Court to complete its own investigation and to indict Raisi for his role in the 1988 massacre.

In 2019, Swedish authorities arrested the former prison official Hamid Noury after invoking the principle of universal jurisdiction. That principle allows for serious violations of international law to be prosecuted by any country’s judiciary, even if the crimes in question took place elsewhere and involved both perpetrators and victims who are citizens of another nation.

Raisi’s crimes are among the most serious that could be prosecuted by the ICC, even has the legal definition of genocide. In a conference on the 1988 massacre following Raisi’s presidential inauguration, British human rights barrister Geoffrey Robertson explained that the 1988 massacre was carried out on the basis of a fatwa from the regime’s hen-Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini which described its targets as enemies of God and signaled an intention to wipe out entire faith communities that opposed the regime’s ultra-hardline interpretation of Islam.

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Robertson and other legal scholars have argued that both the nature and the scale of the crime create clear responsibilities on the part of nations that have ratified the Genocide Convention.

In his remarks at Wednesday’s press conference, Boumedra noted that while Raisi has become the central focus of calls for investigation and arrest, JVMI has identified more than 70 individuals as bearing responsibility for some or all of the massacre’s estimated 30,000 victims.

As deputy prosecutor for Tehran at the time that Khomeini issued his fatwa, Raisi became one of four individuals to sit on the “death commission” that oversaw killings in Evin and Gohardasht Prisons. Survivors of the massacre have described Raisi as being especially committed to a broad application of Khomeini’s call for the mass execution of dissidents, especially members of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran.

Ahmad Ebrahimi, one of the survivors who participated in Wednesday’s press conference, described himself as being one of only 10 to 15 residents of Gohardasht Prison’s political ward who remained alive at the end of the massacre. He also testified he personally observed Raisi at work on the death commission, issuing death sentences in as little as one minute after merely asking detainees whether or not they would denounce the MEK and swear allegiance to the theocratic system.

The participants in Wednesday’s press conference also noted that with 33 years have already passed since the time of the massacre, the number of surviving eyewitnesses is bound to decline sharply if justice is delayed much longer.

Tehran has made concerted efforts to conceal evidence of the killings and thus preemptively obstruct future investigations. Amnesty International has repeatedly warned about the ongoing destruction of gravesites wherein many of the massacre’s victims have been secretly interred. Stevenson cited those warnings on Wednesday and said of the prospective investigations, “There is an absolute necessity that we move fast in this.”

In his introductory remarks at the press conference, Hossein Abedini described Raisi as having assembled a “squad of criminals” for his cabinet, thereby signaling the imminent escalation of malign activities including but not limited to domestic human rights abuses.

Mrs. Maryam Rajavi the NCRI’s president-elect described the cabinet as “the embodiment of four decades of mullahs’ religious dictatorship and terrorism, whose primary mission is to confront the people’s uprising, and to plunder the national wealth, step up terrorism and warmongering, and expand the unpatriotic nuclear and ballistic missiles programs.”

Among those appointees are a number of targets of both American and European sanctions, as well as at least one individual, Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi, who is subject to an Interpol arrest warrant for his involvement in the 1994 bombing of the Argentine-Israeli Mutual Association building in Buenos Aires. It is unlikely that Vahidi or others like him will risk traveling to Western countries in light of the risk of arrest, but it remains to be seen whether Raisi will perceive a similar risk, or be welcomed on state visits to Western nations. Scotland’s response to the call for an investigation may be the first step toward answering this question.