Geneva conference explores 1988 massacre of political prisoners in Iran

Geneva conference explores 1988 massacre of political prisoners in Iran

Published by on September 17, 2017

A conference was held in the United Nations building in Geneva on Thursday 14 September 2017 to discuss the situation of human rights in Iran and the progress of the campaign seeking justice for the victims of the 1988 massacre. Speakers included Dr Alejo Vidal-Quadras, former Vice-President of the European Parliament and President of the International Committee in Search of Justice (ISJ); Dr Tahar Boumedra, the Former UN human rights chief in Baghdad; Kirsty Brimelow QC, Chair of the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales, Dr Alfred de Zayas, United Nations Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order; and Rama Yade, former French Minister for Human Rights.

Dr Vidal-Quadras explained how the campaign for justice has changed the way people around the world and within Iran think about the Iranian regime and said: “We should not have any illusions about this Regime.” He then explained how the Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani’s justice ministers, for first and second term, were both involved in the 1988 Massacre. Mostafa Pourmohammadi was replaced with Seyyed Alireza Avayi, who has also been sanctioned by the European Union for human rights abuses.

He stated: “As a European, I feel rather embarrassed by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, and her relations with the Regime.”

Dr Tahar Boumedra, the Former UN human rights chief in Baghdad, highlighted that JVMI (Justice for Victims of 1988 Massacre in Iran) has had a lot of progress in finding evidence relating to the massacre in the past 12 months, specifically finding the sites of the mass graves, compiled in a report released in April 2017. He added that since that time they have gathered even more evidence, specifically confessions from high-ranking members of the Iranian Regime.

Dr Boumedra noted that Mostafa Pourmohammadi, the former Justice Minister in Rouhani’s first cabinet, came out to say that he was “proud” of his involvement in the massacre. Other members of the Iranian government also came out to say that they were proud of their involvement.

He then cited the report of Asma Jahangir, the UN Special Rapporteur on Iran is which the 1988 massacre is mentioned and emphasised that this is the first time that the massacre has been mentioned in a UN record since 1989.

He then said that it is not good enough to wait for the Iranian regime to investigate itself. He asked: What kind of justice system allows the criminal to investigate themselves? “It is time for the UN to launch an investigation”, he said.

Dr Alfred de Zayas, United Nations Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order, said that he supported Jahangir in her quest and that the families of the victims of the Iranian massacre are entitled to an independent investigation into the massacres.


Former French minister of human rights, Rama Yade said that it has been a long path to the recognition of this massacre as a crime against humanity and assessed that there will be no peace. She underscored that the international community should not be afraid of losing business from inside Iran by pursuing justice for the victims of the 1988 massacre. She said when it comes to a choice between business and human rights; we must always choose human rights. In fact the Iranian regime should be scared of losing business from us, she said.

Kirsty Brimelow QC, began by encouraging other countries from around the world to come out and declare that the 1988 massacre was a crime against humanity, citing a lack of due process, extrajudicial killings, and the concealment of what happened from the families of the victims.

She said that shockingly, 8000 people are believed to have been hanged in just two weeks during the massacre.

She spoke of the fact that she is often asked, why this massacre as opposed to all the others? She said that with Iran, the past demonstrates the present. Iran still has the highest execution per capita in the world. They have 89 children on death row and have executed four so far this year.

She stated that the UN report contains the names of around 100 high-ranking members of the regime who were involved in the executions.

She agreed that we are far beyond a fact-finding mission and recommended that Iran, who dismissed the UN report, must allow a proper investigation by the international community.

She said: “Iran is incapable of holding its own inquiry because it hasn’t done so in the past 28 years and because the judiciary is not separate from the executive.”

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Abolish death penalty

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Dear Secretary General of United Nations,

The number of executions is rising in Iran, journalists are being detained for doing their job and activists face cruel and degrading punishments, long prison terms and even execution. According to the most recent reports by Amnesty International and the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, “Iran’s judiciary continues to sentence child offenders to death, and carry out their execution by hanging”. Also, on August 9th, 2016 the son of late Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, Khomeini’s designated successor in 1988, published a shocking audio tape of his father’s meeting with the “Death Commission” which summarily and extra-judicially executed tens of thousands of political prisoners held in jails across Iran. The massacre was carried out on the basis of a fatwa by the regime’s then-Supreme Leader Khomeini.

We, the undersigned, hereby urge you to take up this issue and raise it in the General Assembly in order to;

1. Put pressure on Iran to immediately halt the executions and abolish death penalty in Iran.
2. Call on all Western governments to make any improvement in economic relations with Iran contingent on its human rights record.
3. Demand in its resolution on human rights violations in Iran, to bring the perpetrators of 1988 massacre (one of the worst atrocities the post-war world has ever seen – Geoffrey Robertson-QC) to justice before an international tribunal.

Executions must stop.

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