The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres highlighted, in the report on human rights in Iran that he presented to the United Nations General Assembly, the consistent lack of accountability of the Iranian regime regarding the 1988 massacre.
Tehran has never formally acknowledged the scale of the massacre, though various regime officials have openly defended the effort to annihilate Iran’s leading pro-democracy opposition group, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).
For the past 33 years, regime officials have attempted to destroy evidence of the mass graves where the victims from the 1988 massacre are buried, even going as far as to harass the families of victims who try to seek information on the fate of their loved ones.
The MEK, which was the prime target of the 1988 massacre, has identified similar gravesites in at least 36 cities, but neither the UN Human Rights Council nor any other international body has ever conducted an investigation to verify, much less expand upon these findings.
Amnesty International has warned numerous times that it is difficult to discover the exact scale of what happened in the summer of 1988 due to the regime’s efforts to pave over many of these mass graves or build large buildings on top of them.
Over a period of three months in the summer of 1988, ‘death commissions’ were established in Iran following a fatwa issued by then-Supreme Leader, Ruhollah Khomeini demanding the execution of any political prisoners affiliated with the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK). Around 30,000 people were executed, however, some survivors of the massacre believe that true estimates are much higher.
The following week, the NCRI hosted a virtual conference on the massacre which featured more than 1,000 former political prisoners alongside a number of European policymakers and experts in human rights and international law.
Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect for the NCRI spoke at the conference and called on the U.S. and Europe to ‘recognize the 1988 massacre in Iran as genocide and a crime against humanity’.
Two experts in attendance, Eric David, from the University of Brussels, and Geoffrey Robertson, a British human rights barrister both said that the massacre meets the criteria to be classed as genocide.
Eric David said, “these people were massacred for belonging to a religion; they were considered apostates. So, it fits perfectly with the definition of article 2 of the 1948 Genocide Convention.”
Robertson also cited that convention in his speech, as part of an effort to spur the international community to action. He described it as obligating all nations who ratified the document to take action in order to halt ongoing acts of genocide or to hold perpetrators accountable for those that reach their attention after the fact.
It is evident that the regime has no issue promoting the known perpetrators of the 1988 massacre to higher positions within its ranks, seemingly confident that foreign powers will not intervene and take action to prosecute them.
Raisi’s promotion to the presidency following a previous appointment as head of the judiciary makes it clear that human rights abusers will never face accountability in Iran unless it is at the hands of an international court, a democratic nation invoking universal jurisdiction, or a new, democratic government that grows out of the mullahs’ overthrow.