Hundreds of current and former UN officials, human rights and legal experts, international NGOs, and academic institutions have signed an open letter to the UN Human Rights Council calling for an international investigation into the 1988 massacre of thousands of political prisoners in Iran.
In 1988, following a fatwa issued by Iran’s then-Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, around 30,000 political prisoners were extra-judicially executed or forcibly disappeared. The majority of the victims belonged to the People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI). The fatwa stated: “It is decreed that those who are in prison throughout the country and remain steadfast in their support for the PMOI are waging war on God and are condemned to execution.”
The letter was released during a press conference in London on Thursday organized by Justice for Victims of 1988 Massacre in Iran. The letter was signed by 464 individuals and organizations, including former ICC President Sang-Hyun Song, former UN Human Rights Council President Joachim Rucker, and former UN Security Council President Claude Heller.
The letter stated that Iran’s current President Ebrahim Raisi and Judiciary Chief Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ejei are key perpetrators of the 1988 massacre, and they “continue to enjoy impunity.” The letter said that there are concerns that the international community’s failure to hold the perpetrators accountable could “embolden the Iranian authorities to commit further atrocities against dissident protestors and political prisoners.”
Moreover, the letter cited many instances when UN bodies were urged to investigate the 1988 massacre but did not do so. In May 2021, around 152 prominent individuals wrote to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, requesting an investigation into the massacre. In June 2021, Amnesty International highlighted Raisi’s involvement in the 1988 massacre and said that the same should be investigated.
Javaid Rehman, the UN Special Rapporteur on Iran, called for an independent inquiry into the 1988 executions in June 2021. In a report submitted to the Human Rights Council in August 2021, the UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances also asked for an international inquiry into the 1988 tragedy.
The signatories stated: “It’s long overdue for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet to investigate the 1988 massacre.” They requested the UN Human Rights Council to take immediate action to hold the perpetrators accountable.