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Naming Raisi, ex-UN officials urge probe of Iran’s 1988 mass execution of dissidents

Former senior United Nations officials and Nobel prize winners call for investigation into killings of some 30,000 detainees, with Iranian president among alleged perpetrators

Protesters hold photos of individuals they say are political prisoners killed in 1988 during a rally to denounce Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi near United Nations headquarters, Sept. 21, 2021 (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
Protesters hold photos of individuals they say are political prisoners killed in 1988 during a rally to denounce Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi near United Nations headquarters, Sept. 21, 2021 (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

LONDON — Former senior United Nations officials and Nobel prize winners on Thursday urged the UN human rights office to launch a probe into mass executions of political prisoners in Iran.

An open letter made public calls for the Human Rights Council to launch an international investigation into the killings of some 30,000 detainees in 1988.

It names Iran’s current President Ebrahim Raisi and the head of judiciary Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei among the alleged perpetrators, who “continue to enjoy impunity.”

The letter says “thousands of political prisoners who refused to abandon their beliefs were executed. The victims were buried in mass graves scattered throughout the country.”

The killings took place after Iran’s then-spiritual leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini declared a fatwa on prisoners who supported the People’s Mojahedin of Iran, an opposition group, which Tehran considered a terrorist organization.

Those executed included Marxists and other leftists. Khomeini died in 1989.

In this photo released by the official website of the office of the Iranian Presidency, President Ebrahim Raisi speaks in a live televised interview with state-run TV, in Tehran, Iran, on Tuesday, January 25, 2022. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)

“We believe it’s long overdue for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet to investigate the 1988 massacre,” the open letter reads.

Ultra-conservative cleric Raisi was elected president of Iran in June last year, replacing Hassan Rouhani.

For opposition and human rights groups, his name is linked to the 1988 executions when he was deputy prosecutor of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran.

Exiled opposition groups say he was part of a commission that sent thousands of jailed opponents to their deaths within a few months.

Raisi has denied involvement in the executions.

In 2019, the US placed Raisi on a sanctions list citing the executions and other alleged rights abuses.

Protesters hold photos of individuals they say are political prisoners killed in 1988 during a rally to denounce Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi near United Nations headquarters, Sept. 21, 2021 (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

The letter was organized by a London-based association of families of victims called Justice for the Victims of the 1988 Massacre in Iran.

Signatories include ex-senior UN figures such as Joachim Rucker, a former president of the Human Rights Council, and Claude Heller, a former president of the Security Council.

Others signing included the former president of Chile Ricardo Escobar, the former president of the European Commission Jacques Santer and the former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, as well as 18 Nobel Laureates.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran, a coalition of opposition groups, last August urged police in Scotland to arrest Raisi for human rights and abuses and genocide if he attended the UN climate summit in Glasgow in November.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have both called for his indictment for human rights violations and crimes against humanity.

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