The United Nations General Assembly adopted a new resolution on Friday condemning the ongoing abuse of human rights in Iran. It is the 68th resolution of its kind, and it comes at a time when many of the relevant issues are escalating as a result of the clerical regime’s growing insecurity and its effort to compensate by consolidating power and closing ranks.
In June, Ebrahim Raisi was confirmed as the regime’s new president by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Raisi had previously served for more than two years as judiciary chief, also based on Khamenei’s appointment. During that time, he oversaw key aspects of a crackdown on dissent sparked by nationwide protests in November 2019. His commitment to that crackdown was no surprise to his background, and his ascension to the presidency had promised to an increase in human rights abuses across the board.
This fact has been confirmed by alarming trends emerging in the statistics related to prisoner executions and other top-line concerns highlighted by the latest UN resolution. Although that resolution makes little reference to Raisi’s role in the accelerating abuse of the death penalty, the Iranian Resistance has tracked the statistics that show how the human rights situation has deteriorated since Raisi took office.
A day before the UN resolution was adopted, the Iranian Resistance reported that at least 31 prisoners had been executed since the start of the Iranian calendar month on November 22. What’s more, at least six prisoners were executed just ahead of that report’s publication, on December 15 alone. Prior reports from the likes of Iran Human Rights Monitor indicated that the average number of monthly executions had sharply ticked up following Raisi’s appointment to the presidency. In the five months prior to that development, the average was approximately 26.6, and in the five ensuing months it was estimated at 35.6.
The available execution figures are only estimates and that the true number of executions is likely higher. This is to say that the regime’s judiciary has a long history of carrying out capital sentences without formally acknowledging them. Annual estimates therefore depend upon the work of multiple activist networks and resident of Iranian prison facilities, who are naturally limited in their ability to develop a comprehensive picture of the regime’s conduct toward prisoners.
Fortunately for them, the tools available to activist networks have expanded in recent years, and this has helped to bring greater international attention to certain issues. This trend was apparent from the UN resolution, which made reference to “appalling acts committed by prison guards at Evin Prison” – acts that were made visible by the release of surveillance footage from the prison which had been obtained by hackers.
Sadly, Western policymakers have been reinforcing Tehran’s impunity in matters of human rights and other malign activities, by failing to exert appropriate pressure on the regime.
The UN resolution, underlined this impunity and highlighted “the importance of credible, independent and impartial investigations in response to all cases of serious human rights violations…including enforced disappearances, extrajudicial executions, and destruction of evidence in relation to such violations.”
The resolution’s adoption comes approximately one year after seven UN human rights experts published an open letter to Iranian authorities in which they urged transparency and accountability with respect to the regime’s single worst crime against humanity, the massacre of 30,000 political prisoners during the summer of 1988. In that letter, the special rapporteurs noted that the massacre had referenced in an early UN resolution on Iran’s human rights situation, but had not been followed up on by any relevant institutions.
“The failure of these bodies to act had a devastating impact on the survivors and families as well as on the general situation of human right in Iran,” the letter stated, adding that it “emboldened Iran… to maintain a strategy of deflection and denial that continue to date.”
New implications of this criticism were revealed the following year by Raisi’s selection, which Amnesty International described as a “grim reminder that impunity reigns supreme in Iran.” This assessment was based partly on Raisi’s role in the November 2019 crackdown but more so on the fact that he was one of four officials who sat on the Tehran “death commission” that oversaw the 1988 massacre.
It was that prior role, more than anything else, which underlines that Raisi administration would step up crackdowns on dissent and other human rights abuses. His leading role in the 1988 massacre has also been fueling calls for his prosecution at the International Criminal Court, or at any other court that invokes the principle of universal jurisdiction over serious violations of international law.
That principle is currently allowing for the prosecution of former Iranian prison official Hamid Noury, by Swedish authorities. Noury stands accused of war crimes and mass murder on account of his own role in the 1988 massacre, and his trial is expected to conclude in April following testimony from dozens of former political prisoners. He is presently the only Iranian official to face legal consequences over the massacre, but his conviction will be a precursor to broader accountability.
“While this resolution reflects only a small portion of the crimes of the ruling religious fascism in Iran, it, nevertheless, proves that this regime has always been the leading human rights violator in the world,” said Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the Iranian Resistance’s president-elect.
She continued: “The dossier on four decades of crimes against humanity and genocide committed by this regime, especially the 1988 massacre… and the massacre of 1,500 demonstrators in 2019, must be referred to the UN Security Council, and the leaders of this regime, and above all, Ali Khamenei, Ebrahim Raisi, and the Judiciary Chief, Gholam Hossein Mohseni Eje’I, must be prosecuted in an International Court. The international community must shun this regime and end impunity for its criminal leaders.”