Scores of dignitaries demand UN probe of 1988 Iran dissident killings

GENEVA — Scores of Nobel laureates, ex-heads of state and government, and former senior UN officials have demanded an international probe into the alleged killings of dissidents in Iran’s prisons in 1988.

In an open letter to UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet made public today, more than 150 signatories back a call for the international community to “investigate the cases including through the establishment of an international investigation.”

Rights groups have long campaigned for justice over alleged extrajudicial executions of thousands of mainly young people across Iranian prisons in 1988, just as the war with Iraq was ending.

Those killed were mainly supporters of the People’s Mujahedin Organization of Iran (MEK), a group banned in Iran that had backed Baghdad during the conflict.

Last September, seven independent UN rights experts wrote to the Iranian government to say they were “seriously concerned by the alleged continued refusal to disclose the fate and whereabouts” of those killed.

“The situation may amount to crimes against humanity,” they wrote, urging a “thorough” and “independent” investigation as well as “accurate death certificates” to be provided to family members.

They also called for an international probe if Tehran continued “to refuse to uphold its obligations.”

Today’s letter echoes that call.

“We appeal to the UN Human Rights Council to end the culture of impunity that exists in Iran by establishing a commission of inquiry into the 1988 mass extrajudicial executions and forced disappearances,” it says.

Signatories include former Irish president Mary Robinson — Bachelet’s predecessor as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights — as well as the heads of previous UN international probes into rights abuses in North Korea and Eritrea.

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