Rights Groups Urge UN to Investigate 1988 Massacre of MEK Activists

‘No to Rouhani’ protest by supporters of the Iranian opposition Mujahedin e Khalq MEK
Written by Shamsi Saadati 

Human rights groups have called on the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet to launch an independent investigation into the 1988 massacre of thousands of political prisoners, primarily affiliated to the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI, Mujahedin e Khalq or MEK), by the Iranian regime.

Numerous non-governmental organizations made the appeal to the UN human rights chief during the Human Rights Council’s 42nd session in Geneva.

The actions by the NGOs included addresses at the Council’s plenary, written submissions and organizing side events about the 1988 massacre.

More than 30,000 political prisoners, mainly MEK activists and supporters, were massacred in Iran in the summer of 1988.


Iran’s 1988 massacre of 30,000 political prisoners is an “ongoing crime against humanity”. 31 years on, the perpetrators are in government & families of victims continue to be tormented. It’s high time for @UNHumanRights to investigate the #1988Massacre.https://www.ncr-iran.org/en/news/human-rights/26639-paris-remembers-iran-s-1988-massacre-urges-un-action-to-stop-the-ongoing-crime-against-humanity …

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The massacre was carried out on the basis of a fatwa by Khomeini which ordered the execution of all prisoners who continue to support the MEK.

Three-member Death Commissions were set up to approve all the death sentences.

Ebrahim Raisi, who in 1988 was a member of the Tehran Death Commission and authorized the execution of thousands of MEK supporters, was appointed as head of the Iranian Judiciary earlier this year.

Alireza Avaei, who in 1988 was a member of the Death Commission in Dezful, is today Hassan Rouhani’s Justice Minister.

The perpetrators of the 1988 massacre have never been brought to justice, according to human rights groups.

On August 9, 2016, an audio tape was published for the first time of Khomeini’s former heir Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri acknowledging that that massacre of MEK members took place and had been ordered at the highest levels.

The NGOs say it is time for the UN to investigate Iran’s 1988 massacre.

Milica Javdan of the Women’s Human Rights International Association addressed Bernard Duhaime, Chair of the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, and Fabian Salvioli, UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion of Truth, Justice, Reparation and Guarantees of non-recurrence on 11 September 2019:

“In the summer of 1988, 30,000 political prisoners were massacred by the Islamic Republic of Iran. The mass atrocity was based on a fatwa by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini. His decree called for the execution of all political prisoners affiliated to the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (MEK), who remained steadfast in their resistance to the Iranian regime. The victims were buried secretly in mass graves. For 31 long years the Iranian government has tried to conceal the truth about the mass executions from the International Community,” she said.

“Mr. Special rapporteur Salvioli, to this day the grieving families of the victims have not received any information about the fate of their loved ones. There is no paper trail on the prisoners’ whereabouts, no trial documents and no graves to visit. The victim’s families look to you for answers.”

“Mr. Salvioli, what measures has your office taken in order to investigate this matter and to seek answers from the Iranian government about the true fate of the victims of the 1988 massacre? Many of the perpetrators of this heinous crime still hold senior positions in the Iranian judiciary and government. Such as Judiciary Chief Ebrahim Raisi and Justice Minister Alireza Avaei. On 25th of July 2019, in an official interview, Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi defended the 1988 massacre and said newly caught Mojahedin (MEK) activists would face capital punishment. Impunity breeds reoccurrence!”

Ms. Sahar Sanaie, speaking for the International Association for Equality of Women, told the Human Rights Council on September 13, 2019 that “mothers, fathers, children and other members of the victims’ families expect from the High Commissioner for Human rights Michelle Bachelet to launch an independent international inquiry to know the truth about their loved ones and to see the authors of this massacre brought to justice.”

“Thirty-one years after the 1988 mass extra-legal executions of political prisoners in Iran, we believe that until the full truth is unveiled and the perpetrators are held to account for their crimes, there will be no incentive for the Government of Iran to change its policy on human rights,” she added.

Two conferences were held at the UN headquarters in Geneva on September 20, in which international human rights experts called for an end to the impunity enjoyed by Iranian regime officials in regard to atrocious human rights conditions in Iran, most specifically those involved in the summer 1988 massacre.

“Why should there now be a tribunal on the crime against humanity committed in 1988? First, because lawyers have examined evidence and know beyond doubt that a crime was committed. If Iran disputes that, we have a process for that,” Kirsty Brimelow QC, an international human rights lawyer, told one of the panels.

“30,000 human beings are only the tip of the iceberg. 120,000 of the MEK members have been killed. Back then Maurice Copithorne dropped the issue of the massacres because he thought it had already been dealt with by his predecessors,” Alfred-Maurice de Zayas, former UN expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, told another panel.

Three women, all victims of the regime’s atrocities in prisons and who had lost several family members to the extrajudicial executions because of their support for the MEK testified during the conferences.

Sima Mirzaee, a family member of 14 individuals (affiliated to the MEK) executed by the Iranian regime, Massoumeh Joushaghani, a former political prisoner in Iran and Azadeh Alemi of the Women’s Human Rights International Association gave firsthand testimonies of the horror they had endured.

Seven NGOs drew the attention of the UN to the presence of mass murderers in Iran’s Judiciary. In a joint written statement, the NGOs pointed out that perpetrators of Iran’s 1988 massacre of MEK political prisoners continue to hold senior ranks in the Judiciary. They urged UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet to support the launch of an independent fact-finding mission into the 1988 massacre.

To learn more about the 1988 massacre of MEK members and other political prisoners, visit this page.

To learn more about the MEK, click here.

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