Ali Savari died under torture in a prison in the Iranian city of Ahvaz on March 26. There were signs of bruises and burns on his body due to flogging and electric shock. The presence of cavities on his head and chest indicate the severity of the torture imposed on this defenceless prisoner.
This was not an isolated case, despite all the media attention on Iran, and despite the fact that the regime has been condemned 64 times by United Nations for abuses of human rights the executions and deaths under torture of anti-government protesters continue. At least 50 peaceful demonstrators have lost their lives during the recent nationwide uprising. Many have been brutally tortured to death. Iran executes more prisoners than any other country in the world per capita.
One reason for the open hand of the authorities to carry out such atrocities is that impunity remains the norm. This dates back to the summer of 1988 when the regime’s Supreme Leader at the time, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa ordering the execution of imprisoned opponents, including those who had already been tried and were serving their prison terms. This was the beginning of what turned out to be the biggest massacre of political prisoners since World War II.
Following the decree, some 30,000 political prisoners were extra-judicially executed within several months. Perpetrators of this massacre are in high positions of office today, including Alireza Avaei, the current Justice Minster of the clerical regime, who incidentally in February this spoked at the Human Rights Council at the UN Headquarters in Geneva. Avaei has been directly implicated in the massacre as prosecutor and a member of the Death Commission in the city of Dezful.
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran said in a report last August, “Between July and August 1988, thousands of political prisoners, men, women and teen-agers, were reportedly executed pursuant to a fatwa issued by the then Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khomeini… These events, known as the 1988 massacres, have never been officially acknowledged. In January 1989, the Special Representative of the Commission on Human Rights on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Reynaldo Galindo Pohl, expressed concern over the ‘global denial’ of the executions and called on Iranian authorities to conduct an investigation. Such an investigation has yet to be undertaken.”
In the face of all these brutalities one may ask what is the most practical step towards ending the pain and suffering of those who seek justice and give hope to the families of thousands of peaceful demonstrators who were arrested in the aftermath of the recent nationwide uprising in Iran, that their loved ones will not have the same fate as those 30,000 who were executed.
In February this year there was a civil society hearing in Geneva which was first of its kind during which former UN Judges and human rights experts heard oral testimony from survivors and eye-witnesses to the massacre.
An indictment was presented by the distinguished British lawyer, Kirsty Brimelow QC. She presented ample evidence establishing that the 1988 massacre constitutes a crime against humanity and referring to the current situation in Iran, particularly, the recent mass arrest and killing of protestors in custody, concluded that the crime against humanity in Iran perpetrated by the same officials continues today.
Mrs Maryam Rajavi, president elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), said in her message on the 29th anniversary of this massacre “I urge the UN High Commissioner on human rights to immediately set up an independent committee to investigate the 1988 massacre and subsequently put those in charge before justice. I urge the UN Security Council to make the arrangements for prosecution of the regime’s leaders for committing crime against humanity”.
Now, as we approach the 30th anniversary of this massacre, it is high time that UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, who has taken a lot of strides to improve human rights globally, orders the launch of UN probe into the 1988 massacre and leave a legacy that can lead to alleviating the suffering of thousands of family members and help to prevent such crimes against humanity from happening again in the 21st century.
*Nasser Razii is an Iranian-born human rights and political activist based in London. His CV includes working with Members of Parliament, media and think tanks on behalf of the Iranian opposition and community. He has followed the developments in the Middle East for the past three decades with a special focus on the Iranian opposition, human rights, terrorism and Islamic extremism.