The murder of the Iranian opposition activist Kazem Rajavi over 30 years ago is being reassessed under the aspect of genocide.
The murder of a renowned Iranian opposition member Kazem Rajavi on April 24, 1990, in the Lake Geneva municipality of Coppet was one of the most nefarious crimes in Swiss criminal history which also has an eminently political component.
According to the findings of the Vaudois judiciary, the perpetrators were a 13-man killer squad commissioned by the then Iranian secret service minister Ali Fallahian to eliminate the 56-year-old lawyer and university professor, Kazem Rajavi, who represented the main opposition coalition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) in Switzerland.
Because all attempts to get hold of the known perpetrators and clients failed, the Vaudois judiciary wanted to suspend the criminal proceedings for murder or incitement to murder in May 2020 after the 30-year limitation period had expired.
The victim’s brother, Saleh Rajavi, who was admitted as a private prosecutor, protested and requested that the proceedings be extended to include genocide and crimes against humanity – both crimes that are not subject to any statute of limitations.
Because these criminal offenses fall under the jurisdiction of the federal government, the Vaudois public prosecutor’s office referred the private plaintiff’s submission to the federal prosecutor’s office. However, the federal prosecutor’s office refused to take on the case and referred to the non-retroactivity in criminal law.
With a decision last Friday, September 24, 2021, however, the Federal Criminal Court’s Board of Appeal found the victim’s brother was right, and it obliged the federal prosecutor’s office to reopen the proceedings.
The judges in Bellinzona justify this with a restriction of non-retroactivity in Article 101 of the Criminal Code. Accordingly, crimes that qualify as genocide or crimes against humanity are not subject to the statute of limitations even if they were not statute-barred under the previous law when the international criminal norms came into force in 2010.
The Federal Criminal Court then goes back to the findings of the Vaudois public prosecutor’s office about the course of the offense. According to it, the Iranian secret service minister Ali Fallahian had ordered the murder of Kazem Rajavi, to whom Switzerland had granted political asylum in 1981, as early as 1982 or 1983.
After a fact-finding mission in 1989 and 1990, a 13-man Iranian killer squad possessing diplomatic passports observed the victim for several days before acting on April 24, 1990.
Kazem Rajavi was on his way to his house in Tannay shortly before noon when the perpetrators sandwiched his car with two cars and opened fire from a nine-millimeter submachine gun. The victim succumbed to his injuries at the scene of the crime. The perpetrators left Switzerland on the same day.
In 1997, investigating judge Roland Châtelain referred to the parallels to the Mykonos attack in Berlin, in which four Iranian-Kurdish politicians were murdered on September 17, 1992, on behalf of the Iranian secret service (MOIS).
In 1996, Germany issued an international arrest warrant against Fallahian. The Argentine authorities followed in 2003, suspecting the former head of the secret service as the mastermind behind the bomb attack on the Amia Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires, in which 85 people were killed in 1994. In 2006 the Vaudois judiciary issued an international arrest warrant against Fallahian.
These elements indicated that the criminal proceedings could involve genocide and/or crimes against humanity, according to the decision of the Federal Criminal Court. The Federal Prosecutor’s Office does not seem to deny that either.