Iran’s survivors to recall horrors in The Hague at Tribunal

Court Hearings-Tribunal

15th October 2012 LONDON: Today the Iran Tribunal announces the second phase of the People’s Court process, the Tribunal, which will be held at The Hague between 25-27 October 2012.

The Iran Tribunal seeks to investigate the crimes committed by the Islamic Republic of Iran against the country’s political prisoners during the 1980s, when between 15000 and 20,000 citizens were executed and many more were tortured under the power of the Khomeini’s Fatwa for holding beliefs that conflicted with the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Tribunal will see eight experienced international judges convene to hear firsthand accounts of the atrocities committed against Iranian citizens. 

The precursor to the Tribunal was a Truth Commission, held in London in June 2012, which documented and assembled witness statements and compiled a report, which concluded that “These violations of human rights were, devised, instigated and executed (or caused to be executed) by a single authority and as such the Islamic Republic of Iran is the only authority responsible for these acts.” The testimonies seventy five witnesses from amongst the survivors and family members of political prisoners executed were received by the Truth Commission panel. The Truth Commission was composed of internationally prominent human rights experts Eric David(Belgian Professor Emeritus of Public International Law), Marie Louise Asmal (Author, Scholar and Activist), Professor Daniel Turp (Professor Université de Montréal), Anne Burley (Former Director of the European Region of Amnesty International), Professor William A. Schabas (Chairman of the Irish Centre for Human Rights at the National University of Ireland, Galway) and Professor Maurice Copithorne (Professor and former Special Rapporteur on Iran 1995-2002). The witnesses, originally from forty cities and provinces in Iran and from diverse political affiliations and views, travelled to London from around the world to appear before the Truth Commission.  They shined the light on the humanitarian crimes committed by a regime that is still in power.

One such example is: Shocking testimony of a mother who had lost all of her children and whose sister was executed together with her eleven year old son. The tearful testimony of a woman who tried to unearth the remains of her brother at the mass-grave of Khavaran.  The painful testimony of a woman whose husband was comforting a fourteen year-old boy as he was hanged and cried for his mother.  The testimony of a mother whose fifteen year old was shot because he had a political pamphlet in his pocket and who had to pay for the bullets used in his execution in order to retrieve his body.  And the testimony of those that witnessed the execution of their fellow prisoners in 1367 pursuant to Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwa to deal with them with “revolutionary rage and rancour”.  The prisoners were simply asked whether they support the Islamic Republic or not before being sent to the gallows.  And the testimony of a woman who was tortured while pregnant and given the choice of either confessing to crimes or losing her unborn child; and the testimony of countless others who were savagely beaten and tortured for days. The testimony of women that were brutally raped in prison.  None of these victims were ever given a fair trial.  None were given access to a defence lawyer.  None were judged by an independent and impartial tribunal.  And for the most part, their only crime was simply that the Islamic Republic did not approve of their political or religious belief.

This is the first hearing of its kind to address the crimes committed by a sitting government and will bring to the fore information that has been suppressed by the Iranian Government for more than two decades. It will be an historic investigation into the crimes committed against the people of Iran.

The Truth Commission and the People’s Court do not represent any state power and therefore cannot compel the accused to stand before the court. To date there has been no investigation into these crimes and no international pressure on Iran to launch such an investigation. In the absence of any formal retribution through the legal system in Iran, survivors and relatives of the massacred people have taken matters in their own hands.

The Iran Tribunal Campaign is a grass root movement that has gained momentum, funding, support over the last twenty five years. It seeks to bring retribution for the victims who were intellectuals, students, leftists, members of opposition parties and ethnic and religious minorities, many whose crime was as innocuous as leaflet distribution but resulted in being sentenced to execution by the Death Commission.

Prof John Cooper QC, Chairman of the Iran Tribunal’s Legal Steering Committee said “This Tribunal is a seminal moment in the history of the Iranian Diaspora and offers a unique opportunity for Iranian citizens to put their leaders to trial.  Iran is still ruled by the same regime that reigned when the massacres happened. This Tribunal will allow victims and their relatives to have their grievances aired for legal consideration for the very first time. Following the due process of the Tribunal many people will be eagerly awaiting the final ruling of the Tribunal in October.”

The Iran Tribunal is focused on the decade of human rights abuses perpetrated against political prisoners throughout the 1980s, culminating in the political massacres in the summer of 1988 that began from 1981.  The stated aim of the Tribunal is to hold the Islamic Republic of Iran to account for these massacres.  This campaign is the culmination of a grassroots movement in Iran over the past 25 years, originated by the mothers, wives and sisters of victims.

The Tribunal is composed of two stages: a ‘Truth Commission’ and the ‘Tribunal’.  The hearings of the Truth Commission have taken place from 18-22 June at Amnesty International’s Human Rights Action Centre in London. Following this, the Iran Tribunal will investigate the findings of the Truth Commission and will issue a judgements based on this and testimonies will be given by 19 witnesses. Tribunal will take place in Peace Palace in The Hague on 25-27 October 2012.

Proceedings will be held in English, with simultaneous Farsi-English translation where required. 

A Press Conferencewill be held on the day before the proceedings, the 24th October at 2:30pm.  It will be hosted by Professor John Cooper QC, head of the International Steering Committee of the Iran Tribunal. There is a Press Gallery at the Peace Palace for those who are able to attend at The Hague.

Proceedings will be streamed live at ‘Hotbird 11471 ver 27500 5/6’ throughout the hearings and there will be regular updates via the website and @IranTribunal Twitter feed.

For further information please contact:

Babak Emad
T:+46 765911112

Hamid Sabi
T: +44 2070720455

For registration please go to:

Media contacts:
Tom Nutt/Bethan Halls
The Communication Group plc
+44 (0)20 7630 1411/+44(0)7775 686 706

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