The Swiss Federal Criminal Court issued a ruling on September 23 which has halted the closure of the investigation of the assassination of Dr. Kazem Rajavi that took place in Switzerland in 1990. Under the statute of limitations of murder, the case was set to close last year after 30 years, following an announcement from the public prosecutor for the Swiss canton of Vaud.
The reconsideration has come after Iranian opposition attorneys have argued in court that Dr. Rajavi’s death could be attributed to a case of genocide, as his assassination came just two years after the 1988 massacre, which saw the mass murders of 30,000 political prisoners at the hands of the Iranian regime.
Dr. Rajavi was near his home in Geneva in 1990 when he was gunned down by a 13-member hit squad that had been organized by regime officials. At the time, he had been working as a representative for the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) to Switzerland. Despite the men involved in his assassination being identified soon after, they fled back to Iran and no authorities have been able to execute warrants for their arrest since.
The assassination of Dr. Rajavi was carried out in accordance with the same fatwa which underlay the 1988 massacre – one in which then-Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini declared that all members and supporters of the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) were guilty of “enmity against God” and should therefore be executed without delay.
As the fatwa issued by Khomeini specifically named the MEK, and those who were in opposition to the regime’s fundamentalist interpretation of Islam, attorneys for the Iranian opposition have argued that Dr. Rajavi’s death can be linked to other assassinations in the same era which signify that the regime was trying to destroy the Iranian Resistance movement.
In a conference in August, participants highlighted that the prosecutions of regime officials could take place in the International Criminal Court on the principle of universal jurisdiction. Two experts who were present for the conference, Professor Eric David from the University of Brussels and British human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson, both made statements that the atrocities committed at the 1988 massacre fit the criteria to be labeled as acts of genocide.
That expression of impunity was reinforced at the international level by the presence of a European delegation at Raisi’s inauguration, in the wake of widespread calls for him to be isolated, delegitimized, and ultimately prosecuted for genocide.
Western governments’ methods of appeasing the regime instead of holding them accountable for their crimes against humanity have only reinforced the sense of impunity that the regime has. However, the Swiss court’s decision to halt the closure of the investigation into Dr. Rajavi’s murder seems to be a step in the right direction to finally uncloak the regime’s impunity.
President-elect of the NCRI, Maryam Rajavi has described the court’s decisions as a ‘historic turning point’ and a ‘necessary step in countering the unbridled terrorism of the clerical regime’.
She warned the international community that recent events involving the regime, show that they have not changed how they operate in the past 30 years since the atrocities that they caused in the late 80s and early 90s. In reference to the 2018 bomb plot of an NCRI rally in Paris, and the brutal crackdown of the 2019 uprising in Iran she said, “Terrorism and repression are inherent and indispensable to the ruling religious tyranny.”
These incidents make it clear that as well as defining the regime’s current presidential administration, the legacy of the 1988 massacre represents persistent threats both to the Iranian people and to global security.