Iran Human RightsUniversal Jurisdiction Is the Only Way To Hold the...

Universal Jurisdiction Is the Only Way To Hold the Iranian Regime Accountable for Their Crimes


Today it is widely known that the Iranian regime is desperate to cover up their malign activities, and especially their brutal historical crimes against humanity. In 1988, the regime brutally massacred over 30,000 political prisoners, the majority of whom were members and supporters of the Iranian opposition group, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).

Two years ago, former Iranian prison official, Hamid Noury was arrested by Swedish authorities in Stockholm for his involvement in the 1988 massacre. After 21 months of investigations, Noury went on trial in August of this year, with his final sentence expected to be given in April 2022. Throughout the ongoing trial, witnesses to Noury’s crimes, the majority of whom were MEK supporters, gave testimonies and provided documentation and significant evidence to the court.

Political scientist Majid Rafizadeh said, “It is believed that thousands of political prisoners were massacred in Gohardasht Prison in the summer of 1988, based on a fatwa (religious decree) by the then-Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini. None had been sentenced to death but were summarily hanged only because they remained steadfast in their beliefs and democratic ideals.”

As most of the victims of the massacre were members of the MEK who advocated vastly opposing views and interpretations of Islam to that of the regime’s fundamentalism, many legal experts have stated that the 1988 massacre warrants as being classed as an act of genocide in addition to being a crime against humanity.

Earlier this month, the trial was temporarily relocated to Albania to hear testimonies from seven MEK members who reside at the MEK’s camp, Ashraf-3, in the country as they were unable to travel to Sweden.

The witnesses at Ashraf-3 gave detailed, graphic testimonies about the atrocities that took place during the summer of 1988 in Gohardasht prison. The trial proceedings were reported widely by the media, including by many Farsi-language satellite channels broadcasting in Iran.

Rafizadeh said, “Noury’s trial in Sweden focuses purely on events in one prison, namely Gohardasht because that is where Noury is accused of participating in the systematic killings. But, clearly, the massacre in 1988 was being carried out in prisons across the country, including at the infamous Evin prison in Tehran.”

Families of the victims have been consistently advocating broader investigations into the massacre for years, by the United Nations. These calls ramped up the pace and gained wider attention a few months ago when one of the main perpetrators of the atrocities, Ebrahim Raisi was inaugurated as the regime’s newest president this summer.

Amnesty International’s Secretary General Agnès Callamard spoke out earlier this year saying, “Ebrahim Raisi has risen to the presidency instead of being investigated for the crimes against humanity of murder, enforced disappearance and torture, is a grim reminder that impunity reigns supreme in Iran.”

She pointed out Raisi’s role as a member of the ‘death commission’, that was tasked with sentencing the prisoners to execution, and stated that there are calls for him to be investigated for his past and ongoing crimes under international law, under the principle of universal jurisdiction.

The significance of Noury’s case has led to the regime’s Foreign Minister questioning it in a meeting at the UN General Assembly in September with his Swedish counterpart, with him claiming that the MEK has ‘fabricated’ the trial’s evidence.

Noury himself is set to give his own testimony next week as the trial moves forward. It is likely that he’ll try to justify the crimes that he committed and was a part of, but the damning evidence dictates that he will ultimately face justice.

Rafizadeh said, “It is up to the media and the international community to also ensure that thousands of families of the victims of the 1988 massacre also get their basic demand: To hold the main perpetrators of the 1988 massacre in Iran accountable for their crimes against humanity, particularly Raisi and the current Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.”

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