“Hateful crimes”: Iran at the top of the vote dismays activists
Iranian presidential front-runner Ebrahim Raisi has used his position at the heart of the justice system for serious rights violations, including mass executions of political prisoners, activists say.
They say Raisi – who now has victory in sight on Friday after even conservative rivals were disqualified during the scrutiny – should face international justice rather than rule his country.
At 60, the middle-ranking cleric is still relatively young for a figure who has held a succession of key positions, beginning almost immediately after the fall of the Shah in the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
At just 20 years old, he was appointed prosecutor of Karaj district and then of Hamadan province, before being promoted in 1985 to deputy prosecutor of Tehran.
It is in this role, activists say, that Raisi played a key role in the executions of thousands of opposition prisoners – most of them suspected members of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI). prohibited – when, according to activists, he was part of a four-man “death committee” that sent death row inmates without due process.
Raisi, seen by some Iranian media as a possible successor to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has denied any personal involvement in the 1988 murders but also hailed the decision to carry out the executions.
He then became chief prosecutor of Tehran in 1989, then in 2004, deputy chief of the judiciary, a position he held for 10 years.
Since 2019, he has been the head of the judiciary.
“Raisi’s only place is in the dock, not in the presidency,” said Shadi Sadr, executive director of London-based Justice for Iran, which campaigns against impunity for crimes committed in Iran.
“The mere fact that he is currently the head of the judiciary and a candidate for the presidency demonstrates the level of impunity enjoyed by perpetrators of heinous crimes in the Islamic Republic of Iran,” she said.
– ‘Without mercy’ –
The 1988 murders, which took place from July to September of the same year, allegedly on the direct orders of the revolutionary leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, remain a near taboo in modern Iran.
Most rights groups and historians say between 4,000 and 5,000 were killed, but the political wing of the MEK, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), puts the figure at nearly 30 000.
Last year, seven UN special rapporteurs told the Iranian government that “the situation could amount to crimes against humanity” and called for an international investigation if Tehran does not fully show its responsibilities.
Amnesty International reached a similar conclusion in a 2018 report, which identified Raisi as a member of Tehran’s “death commission” which secretly sent thousands to their deaths in Evin Prison in Tehran and Gohardasht prison in Karaj.
The vast majority of the bodies were buried in anonymous mass graves and Iran continues to hide the fate of the victims and the fate of their remains, he accused.
Iranian researcher from rights group Raha Bahreini told AFP that Raisi should be subject to a “criminal investigation for crimes against humanity of murder, enforced disappearance and torture”, including by foreign countries under the principle of universal jurisdiction.
According to an audio recording released in 2016, Hossein Ali Montazeri, once likely successor to Khomeini but later dismissed, told members of the “death commission” in August 1988, including Raisi, that the murders were the “biggest crime. of the history of Islam. Republic”.
Hossein Abedini, member of the NCRI’s foreign affairs committee, described Raisi as a “heart-stony killer” with “40 years of repression”.
Former prisoners, now living in exile and claiming to have survived the massacres, told a conference organized by the NCRI last week that they had personally seen Raisi working as a member of the commission.
“When I entered the death commission, I saw Raisi (…) in a white shirt and a Revolutionary Guard uniform,” Reza Shemirani, who was jailed for 10 years, told the conference. and now lives in Switzerland.
Raisi, he said, was the “most active member of the commission”, while Mahmoud Royaei, who was imprisoned from 1981 to 1991, said that Raisi “made the greatest effort to execute all of the world”.
Royaei added: “He had no mercy.”
– ‘Pillar of a system’ –
When the US Treasury in November 2019 included Raisi in the sanctions against members of Khamenei’s inner circle, it said he was involved in the 1988 death commission and was also involved in “the brutal crackdown. Protests that followed the contested 2009 presidential election.
Under Raisi, according to Amnesty’s Bahraini, the judiciary ensured that those responsible for the bloody November 2019 crackdown on protesters who left hundreds dead received “total impunity.”
“Raisi is a pillar of a system that imprisons, tortures and kills people for daring to criticize state policies,” said executive director of the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran , Hadi Ghaemi.
“Instead of running for president, he should be tried by an impartial tribunal,” he said.
© 2021 AFP