A recently introduced resolution in the U.S. Congress, H.Res. 159, refers to the horrific mass executions of political prisoners by the Islamic Republic of Iran. Mike McCaul, the House Homeland Security Chair, introduced the resolution, and it was cosponsored by Ed Royce, the House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair, as well as Ranking Member Eliot Engel, and Rules Committee Chair Representative, Peter Sessions.
It came as Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, recently re-elected to a second term, and was addressing the 71st Session of the United Nations General Assembly.
The Associated Press reported that thousands of people gathered outside the United Nations to protest Iran’s human rights abuses, executions, and the 1988 massacre of more than 30,000 prisoners.
Speakers for the Resolution included former Democratic vice Presidential candidate, Senator Joe Lieberman, and Sir Geoffrey Robertson, former Head of UN war crimes tribunal for Sierra Leone. Robertson wrote a report on Iran’s 1988 massacre, published on the United Nations Arts Initiative.
The resolution “condemns the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran for the 1988 massacre of political prisoners and [calls] for justice for the victims.”
It adds that “over a 4-month period in 1988, the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran carried out the barbaric mass executions of thousands of political prisoners and many unrelated political groups. ... [A]ccording to a report by the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, the massacre was carried out pursuant to a fatwa, or religious decree, issued by then Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, that targeted the People’s Mojahedin of Iran (PMOI), also known as the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK).”
The resolution quotes one of Iran’s own senior former officials, the late Hussein Ali Montazeri, a grand ayatollah who served as Khomeini’s chief deputy, who said the 1988 massacre was ‘’the greatest crime committed during the Islamic Republic, for which history will condemn us.”
Accordingly, in 1988, the Islamic Republic executed the thousands of prisoners who had even slight affiliations with the main opposition movement Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), because of their political beliefs. The victims were buried in mass graves in Iran after they were shot or hung over a period of just a few months.
Amnesty International reported on November 2, 2007, ‘’between 27 July 1988 and the end of that year, thousands of political prisoners [in Iran], including prisoners of conscience, were executed in prisons nationwide.”
Noted by H.Res. 159, “Those personally responsible for these mass executions include senior officials serving in the current Government of Iran; ... [P]risoners were reportedly brought before the commissions and briefly questioned about their political affiliation, and any prisoner who refused to renounce his or her affiliation with groups perceived as enemies by the regime was then taken away for execution.”
Accordingly, “thousands of people, including teenagers and pregnant women, imprisoned merely for participating in peaceful street protests and for possessing political reading material, many of whom had already served or were currently serving prison sentences,” were among the victims.
Stated in the congressional resolution, “[P]risoners were executed in groups, some in mass hangings and others by firing squad, with their bodies disposed of in mass graves.”
According to Amnesty International, ‘’the majority of those killed were supporters of the PMOI [MEK], but hundreds of members and supporters of other political groups . . . were also among the execution victims.’’
The resolution further states, “The later waves of executions targeted religious minorities, such as members of the Baha’i faith, many of whom were often subjected to brutal torture before they were killed.” It add “The families of the executed were denied information about their loved ones and were prohibited from mourning them in public”.
The resolution mentions a recently disclosed audiotape, where Hussein Ali Montazeri can be heard to say that the 1988 mass killings were “the greatest crime committed during the Islamic Republic, for which history will condemn us.”
Amnesty International’s report concluded, “there should be no impunity for human rights violations, no matter where or when they took place. The 1988 executions should be subject to an independent impartial investigation, and all those responsible should be brought to justice, and receive appropriate penalties’’
The resolution says, “The current Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei was reportedly aware of, and later publicly condoned the massacre.”
The Montazeri audiotape was released by Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri’s son, Ahmad, a moderate cleric, who posted the confidential audio of his father on his website. He was ordered by the intelligence to remove it, and was later arrested.
On the tape, Montazeri states, “You [Iranian officials] will be in the future etched in the annals of history as criminals. The greatest crime committed under the Islamic Republic, from the beginning of the Revolution until now, which will be condemned by history, is this crime [mass executions] committed by you.”
Ironically, the people Montazeri is addressing and warning on the tape appear to enjoy high positions currently. They include:
• Mostafa Pourmohammadi was appointed by the Hassan Rouhani to be justice minister. After the release of a tape, Pourmohammadi defended the commission of the massacre and said he is “proud“ to have carried out “God’s commandments” in killing the political opponents.
• Ebrahim Raeisi was appointed as the head of Astan Quds Razavi, which has billions of dollars in revenues.
• Hussein Ali Nayeri is now the deputy of the Supreme Court of Iran. In his memoir, Montzari writes that he told Nayeri to stop the executions at least in the month of Moharram religious holidays, but according to the BBC, Nayeri said, “We have executed so far 750 people in Tehran... we get the job done with [executing] another 200 people and then we will listen to whatever you say.”
These people are only few of those who were involved in the 1988 massacre. They have been awarded more senior positions, power, and money.
Montazeri warned them, “Beware of 50 years from now, when people will pass judgment on the leader (Khomeini) and will say he was a bloodthirsty, brutal and murderous leader.”
The message from Iran’s ex-heir Supreme Leader highlights the methods that the officials of the Islamic Republic use to oppress the opposition. Executions or brutal punishments are common, as Iran ranks top in the world when it comes to executions per capita. Crimes against humanity continue to occur. These are the means that the government uses to silence the opposition.
Human rights organizations, the United Nations, and the International Criminal Court (ICC) must conduct investigations, and bring those who have committed and continue to commit these crimes to justice. Calls for justice are increasing. Those who commit crimes against humanity should be held accountable.
Congress must follow up on the recent Congressional resolution.