Iran leadership tainted by 1988 executions; U.N. must investigate

By Struan Stevenson
Iran's president Hassan Rouhani waves to reporters next to a portrait of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khomenei is he leaves at the end of a press conference in Tehran on August 29, 2015. File Photo by Ali Mohammadi/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/61883ab4ad0cca0f3ffc2ea30a7ee7d7/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Iran's president Hassan Rouhani waves to reporters next to a portrait of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khomenei is he leaves at the end of a press conference in Tehran on August 29, 2015. File Photo by Ali Mohammadi/UPI | License Photo

BRUSSELS, Sept. 2 (UPI) -- The summary execution of more than 30,000 political prisoners by the Iranian regime in the summer of 1988 surely must rank as one of the most horrific crimes against humanity of the late 20th century. The vast majority of the victims were activists of the opposition People's Mojahedin of Iran. The mass executions, in jails across Iran, were carried out on the basis of a fatwa by the regime's then-supreme leader, the murderous Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

A "death committee" approved all the death sentences. Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi, a member of that committee, is today President Hassan Rouhani's justice minister. Other members of the committee hold prominent positions in the Iranian regime.


In documents that are in the public domain, we know that Khomenei decreed: "Whoever at any stage continues to belong to the Monafeqin (Farsi for "hypocrites" -- the regime's derogatory term to describe the PMOI/MEK) must be executed. Annihilate the enemies of Islam."


He went on to add: "Those who are in prisons throughout the country and remain steadfast in their support for the Monafeqin are waging war on God and are condemned to execution. It is naive to show mercy to those who wage war on God."

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When Khomenei was questioned about those who had already served their sentences and been released from prison, or those who had been sentenced to terms of imprisonment, he ordered that they should all be put to death. He decreed that there should be no mercy for anyone, including teenagers. He said even pregnant women should not be spared or have the chance to give birth to their babies and should be executed immediately.

Kangaroo courts were set up in Tehran and in cities across Iran, and political prisoners were hauled in front of a Sharia judge who demanded to know if they supported the Monafeqin. If they even used the expression mojahedin, they were sentenced to immediate execution. These sham trials took on average two minutes. It was estimated that 20,000 political prisoners were hanged or shot within the first 30 days of the 1988 pogrom, with a further 10,000 murdered in the months that followed.


The 1988 carnage is a crime against humanity that is even worse than the infamous Katyn Forest massacre, when the Soviet NKVD slaughtered 22,000 Polish prisoners of war, primarily military officers, intellectuals, policemen and other public servants, in a Russian forest in April and May 1940. Joseph Stalin and every member of the Soviet Politburo signed the document ordering their execution. The Soviets spent many years trying to cover up their culpability for this butchery, which has now become the subject of countless books and films.

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Monstrous acts of butchery like Katyn have become grisly milestones in the history of oppression and tyranny. So why is it that the West seems determined to ignore an even greater massacre that took place within our own lifetimes, the perpetrators of which are not only still alive, but in positions of power inside Iran? The truth about this horrific genocide was revealed on Aug. 9 this year when the son of Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, the former deputy supreme leader of the Islamic Republic and the nominated successor to Khomeini, published a previously unknown audiotape in which Montazeri acknowledged that the massacre had taken place and had been ordered at the highest levels.


In the electrifying tape, Montazeri can be heard telling a meeting of the death committee in 1988 that they are responsible for a crime against humanity. He says: "The greatest crime committed during the reign of the Islamic Republic, for which history will condemn us, has been committed by you. Your [names] will in the future be etched in the annals of history as criminals." Because of his forthright protests, the grand ayatollah was dismissed as the heir to the supreme leader by Khomeini and placed under house arrest until his death in 2009.

Like the Soviet massacre at Katyn or the Nazi holocaust, all senior officials in the regime knew about and were complicit in the crime. Iran's so-called "moderate" president, the smiling Hassan Rouhani with whom the West believes it can do business, was deputy commander-in- chief of the regime's armed forces at the time. As such, he was certainly fully aware of the shocking extermination of the political prisoners in Iran and as such should be held to account, together with all of the other perpetrators.

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Twenty-eight years on from this barbaric crime, international condemnation has been slow to emerge. Indeed the West seems determined to overlook this greatest human rights outrage since the end of World War II, so that it can sign lucrative deals with the Iranian regime. It is a disgrace that there has been no prosecution of the criminals who orchestrated and carried out the gruesome 1988 murders, which the regime continues to deny ever occurred.


Indeed, revealing his own homicidal tendencies, Rouhani has presided over more nearly 3,000 executions since he assumed office three years ago. A surge of executions, have taken place in recent weeks, with up to 20 people a day going to the gallows, often in brutal public executions.

If the U.N. is to retain any shred of legitimacy, it must immediately launch a full and independent investigation into this appalling crime and insist on the arrest and trial for crimes against humanity of Khomenei, Rouhani and all of the other murderers whose bloodstained hands the West continues to shake.

Struan Stevenson is president of the European Iraqi Freedom Association. He served as a conservative MEP representing Scotland in the European Parliament from 1999 until his retirement in 2014. He was president of the Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iraq from 2009 to 2014 and president of the Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup.  

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