meBrahim Raisi, winner of Iran’s presidential elections, is responsible for the deaths of thousands of prisoners in Iranian prisons in late 1988. He served as a member of the prosecution service of a three-man “death committee,” as they called it. later the prisoners, who ordered the executions. of men and women members of an opposition group, and then of men who were atheists, communists or “apostates” of the left. Women in this category were tortured until they recanted, or died after continuous whipping.
Raisi, just 28 years old at the time, was a deputy prosecutor for Tehran, alternating on the committee with his boss. Last week, when asked about the subject, he claimed: “All the actions I have taken have always been in defense of human rights against those who violated human rights.“ in a conference in 2018, is said to have referred to the killings as “one of the proud achievements of the system.”
The families of the victims, as well as the world, have a right to know exactly what Raisi did during this gruesome episode. Diplomatic immunity cannot be an excuse to redouble efforts to bring those responsible to justice.
In 2010, the Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation, based in Washington, commissioned me conduct research in the murders, which had gone unnoticed outside of Iran. I interviewed more than 40 survivors who had been in jail in 1988 and whose memories were too vivid, and I checked the government’s own newspapers for corroborating details.
The prison massacres were ordered by Ayatollah Khomeini, furious at having to agree to a truce in his war with Saddam Hussein. On July 1988 issued a fatwa decreeing death for all mohareb, enemies of God, by which he meant the opponents of his theocratic state. They were Be killed “With revolutionary rage and rancor.”
Those defenseless prisoners paraded before the death committee, which asked a series of questions designed to test your loyalty to the state. Later, thousands of people were blindfolded and hanged. They were hung from cranes, four at a time, or in groups of six from ropes that hung from the stage of the prison’s auditorium. Their bodies were sprayed with disinfectant and they were buried at night in mass graves.
Most were students, jailed after their sentences for distributing leftist literature expired, and their families knew nothing of their fate until the prison handed them a plastic bag of their few possessions. Families were forbidden (and still are) to mourn their children, or even to officially know the location of the graves. Many thousands – the total is unclear – were killed in prisons across Iran: without trial, without appeal and absolutely without mercy.
Although the order came from Khomeini, the supreme leader, and was backed by then-president (and current supreme leader) Ali Khamenei, its implementation was the responsibility of the death committee – a judge, an intelligence official, and a prosecutor. This last role was shared between Raisi and his superior. Raisi became a city attorney for the revolution at age 19; His zeal led to his appointment as Deputy Prosecutor for Tehran at the age of 28.
In August 1988, Raisi was one of four officials summoned by an ayatollah named Hossein Ali Montazeri, who asked them to stop executions for a month of religious observance. “I am concerned about the trial that posterity and history will pass us,” he would write to the Chief Justice. The prison judge reportedly told him they had no moral or legal scruples: they had already killed 750 people in Tehran and he had identified 250 others. Montazeri was in line to become the next supreme leader, but this show of humanity led the regime to remove him from the succession.
These massacres in prisons weigh heavily on the conscience of the UN. They became known to each other at the time (though not with all their horror) through Amnesty International reports and information provided to the UN Special Rapporteur on Iran, but did not conduct any investigation then or subsequently. Iran’s representatives at the UN denied this and the rapporteur did not ask any further questions after he was received in Evin prison in Tehran with a musical band (and was denied permission to meet Montazeri). Now that the truth is emerging about the brutal extermination of thousands of prisoners, the UN human rights council has a duty to establish a proper investigation.
Raisi’s election will serve to focus long-awaited attention on the 1988 prison massacres. In Sweden, a trial of Hamid nouri, a death committee official in a Tehran prison who was recognized after entering the country inadvertently in 2019; your testimony may implicate Raisi. The UN, at its annual summits that have hosted world terrorist leaders like Muammar Gaddafi, may find Raisi, who was included on a US sanctions list in 2019, without access to the country. At the very least, no representative of any democracy should shake his hand, hit his elbow, or take anything he says seriously.
Geoffrey Robertson QC’s report on his investigation, The Massacre of Political Prisoners in Iran, is published by the Abdorrahman Bouromond Foundation.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism