Iranian expatriates have written United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to once again urge the international organisation to investigate the 1988 massacre of political prisoners, following reports of the authorities latest efforts to destroy the mass grave in Tehran’s Khavaran Cemetery where some of the victims lie.
The letter reads: “The Iranian public and all human rights defenders expect the United Nations, particularly the UN Security Council, to launch an investigation into the massacre of political prisoners and summon the perpetrators of this heinous crime before the International Court of Justice.”
It points out that the government has already “destroyed or damaged” mass graves of the 1988 victims in cities like Ahvaz, Tabriz, and Mashhad, even concreting over the gravesites and building parks, roads, and commercial property. It further advises that the destruction of graves and suppression of public discourse is an ongoing crime against humanity because it psychologically (and sometimes physically) tortures survivors and victims’ relatives.
The signatories are relatives of those slaughtered for their membership in the opposition group the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK). Following a fatwa from then-supreme leader Ruhollah Khomeini, MEK members held on political charges were brought before “death commissions” and given one-minute trials where they were asked if they still supported the MEK. If they said yes, as almost all did, then they were sent to the gallows.
It was an effort to destroy the group, which were and still are the most prominent and widely supported critics of the theocracy in Iran, but it did not work because the Iranian people believe in democracy, not authoritarianism, so they overwhelmingly support the MEK.
That’s why the 2017 and 2019 protests against the ruling system echoed calls long made by the MEK about how regime change is needed because the ruling theocracy will not change internally. Even the authorities have since admitted that the protests are linked to support for the MEK and this terrifies the mullahs. It’s why they ordered a crackdown that resulted in 1,500 protesters being shot dead in the streets in November 2019, while thousands more were injured and arrested.
Iran’s critics have long pointed to the crackdowns on protesters as evidence that the government believes it has impunity for domestic human rights violations, as a result of a lack of international action regarding the 1988 massacre. While the international community is now taking small steps to hold Tehran accountable, the destruction of these graves could prevent anyone from being brought to justice.
That’s why the UN must step in and investigate now before it is too late.
In addition to these event, at the initiative of the International Committee for Justice for the Victims of the 1988 Massacre in Iran, more than 150 former UN officials, international experts and reputable non-governmental organizations wrote a letter to the UN Secretary-General, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, High Commissioner for Human Rights, President of the Human Rights Council, Members of the Human Rights Council and the Third Committee of the General Assembly and UN rapporteurs, and called for the establishment of an international commission of inquiry into the 1988 massacre of political prisoners. In an inhumane fatwa, Khomeini (the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran) ordered the massacre of all Mojahedin (MEK) prisoners at any stage of their judicial file.
The signatories called on the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet (former President of Chile), to support the establishment of a fact-finding commission.
The signatories called on the UN Human Rights Council to end the impunity for criminals in Iran by setting up a fact-finding commission on large-scale extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances.