UN official calls for human rights investigation into Iran president-elect Raisi

Javaid Rehman urges probe into mass state-ordered executions in 1988, when newly elected Iran leader was Tehran deputy prosecutor

Ebrahim Raisi, who went on to win Iran's presidential election, waves after casting his vote at a polling station in Tehran, Iran, on June 18, 2021. (Ebrahim Noroozi/AP)
Ebrahim Raisi, who went on to win Iran's presidential election, waves after casting his vote at a polling station in Tehran, Iran, on June 18, 2021. (Ebrahim Noroozi/AP)

The United Nations official tasked with investigating human rights in Iran is backing an independent probe into the role of Tehran’s new president-elect, Ebrahim Raisi, in mass state-ordered executions in 1988 when he was Tehran deputy prosecutor.

“I think it is time and it’s very important now that Mr. Raisi is the president [-elect] that we start investigating what happened in 1988 and the role of individuals,” Javaid Rehman, the third special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, told Reuters. “Otherwise we will have very serious concerns about this president and the role, the reported role, he has played historically in those executions.”

“We have made communications to the Islamic Republic of Iran because we have concerns that there is again a policy to actually destroy the graves, or there may be some activity to destroy evidence of mass graves,” Rehman said. “I will campaign for justice to be done.”

On Monday, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei praised Raisi’s record as judiciary chief.

“Mr. Raisi’s actions during his mandate [as head of] the judiciary… rekindled the people’s confidence in this institution,” Khamenei said in a speech to judiciary officials, according to his website.

Raisi was elected earlier this month with nearly 62% of a vote that saw record-low turnout after his main opponents were disqualified. Raisi, appointed by Khamenei as judiciary chief in 2019, is to replace relative moderate President Hassan Rouhani — whose landmark achievement was a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers — on August 3.

In this photo released by the official website of the office of the Iranian Presidency, President Hassan Rouhani casts his ballot for the presidential elections at the Interior Ministry in Tehran, Iran, on June 18, 2021. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)

The ultraconservative oversaw an increase in high-profile corruption cases against senior state officials and, unusually, cases against judges.

“The scale of executions that we hear imply that it was a part of a policy that was being pursued… It was not just one person,” Rehman told Reuters. He said there had also been “no proper investigation” into the killing of protesters in November 2019, the bloodiest political unrest since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

“Even by conservative estimates we can say that more than 300 people were killed arbitrarily, extrajudicially, and nobody has been held accountable and [there was] no compensation,” he said. “There is a widespread and systemic impunity in the country for gross violations of human rights, both historically in the past, as well as in the present.”

Iran’s judiciary is regularly criticized by the United Nations and Western non-governmental organizations for alleged rights abuses.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said Tuesday that at least 95 people had been executed in Iran so far this year, including six women.

She told the Human Rights Council in Geneva that at least four child offenders in Iran faced “imminent execution.”

Bachelet said Iran frequently imposes death sentences “based on forced confessions extracted through torture or after serious violations of the right to a fair trial.”

Raisi is on a blacklist of Iranian officials sanctioned by Washington, due to his complicity in the “brutal crackdown” on protests and “extrajudicial executions of thousands of political prisoners in 1988,” accusations the president-elect rejected.

The cleric, 60, a former student of Khamenei, is seen by many Iran observers as Iran’s most “compatible” president with the supreme leader since Khamenei took the role in 1989.

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