October 30,2012

The Islamic Republic of Iran is condemned for crimes against humanity at the Iran Tribunal at the Academy of International Law of Peace Palace in The Hague

After five years of hard work and dedication and a lengthy truth commission in London in June of this year, the tireless efforts of the Iran tribunal campaign culminated in a final court hearing, which took place over 3 days from the 25th to the 27th of October 2012 at the Academy of International Law of Peace Palace in The Hague. The historic event was preceded by a press conference on Wednesday the 23rd of October in which the president of the tribunal Judge John Kriegler and four members of the Iran Tribunal Legal Steering Committee participated- John Cooper, Hamid Sabi, Hedayat Matin Daftari and Payam Akhavan. The panel answered questions from the press and the audience. One of the most significant questions asked was as to why the tribunal had chosen to only deal with crimes committed by the regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran throughout a specific era. To this it was replied that the tribunal had insufficient human resources and economic funds to deal with all the crimes committed by the regime and that the Iran Tribunal committee had chosen the 1980’s as this was the bloodiest period in the history of the Islamic republic of Iran.

Tribunal proceedings were opened on the morning of the 25th of October with a short speech from the President of the tribunal Johan Kriegler in which he introduced himself and his colleagues on the Judges panel,

“This is the first day of the last session of a project that has been going for some years now. This session which will continue until Saturday afternoon is concerned with the judicial or quasi-judicial hearing of the evidence of some 20 witnesses and closing argument at the end opening argument today by a team of prosecutors. The tribunal is the last phase of a two-year plus process. That process included a very long and intensive session earlier this year in the course of which a commission heard the evidence of some 70 witnesses. That evidence has been compiled, translated into English, bound into a booklet and is available to the tribunal. The tribunal will consider that evidence as well as the evidence that is to be adduced in the next few days as of course argument which will contextualise all of that evidence. The members of the tribunal are uncommitted to any particular social, political, ideological, ethical, ethnic or any other grouping in the world – we are all individuals, we are all largely strangers to one another, we have had (some of us) occasional contact with one another but we do not constitute any kind of unity. We will be hearing this evidence and the arguments presented as individuals, as individuals who are skilled in the law, experienced in the law particularly in relation to international law and international criminal law. I will introduce the members of the tribunal to you very briefly right now, starting at the extreme far end with Michael Mansfield QC – queen’s council from the United Kingdom, a prominent UK human rights lawyer, Professor and fellow of law in the UK, active member of Amnesty International, Liberty and founding member of INTERIGHTS, juror on the Russell Tribunal on Israeli violations of international law, he is the chair of the peoples inquiry into state violence in Northern Ireland, he is familiar with this vicinity, he is a lawyer at the ICTY in the Hague and he represents the defendants accused of war crimes. Professor Makau Mutua, a Kenyan by origin qualified at the university of Nairobi then went on to Harvard, he is currently professor of law at the state university of New York in Buffalo. He has written extensively on human rights international law and international business transactions. He played a prominent role in the constitutional transformation of his country of birth. He is head of CFR. Next to me a woman of infinite and unjustified modesty – Margaret Kunstler from New York – life long human rights activist and lawyer, practices criminal and civil rights law in the us, on the board of international women’s human rights organization, feisty liberation lawyer. Patricia Sellers, professor of law, international criminal lawyer, fellow at Oxford former prosecutor, legal advisor on gender law at the ICTY – Professor Sellers brings to this tribunal a wealth of experience in human rights law, international criminal law – national of US and Belgium. Professor John Dugard –a South African now resident in this part of the world – a Professor active in the protection of the promotion of human rights in apartheid south Africa, special UN rapporteur on the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, a juror on the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, presently a judge ad hoc of the international court of justice. Now myself – I am Johan Kriegler, a retired judge of the constitutional court of South Africa. I played a role in the transition of my country from apartheid to democracy and have been active in various other parts of the world in that kind of transition. We are honoured to be here and hope to serve the people of Iran and of the world with honesty and integrity.”

After the speech of the president of the tribunal, Payam Akhavan the head of the prosecution team introduced himself and his team,

“My name is Payam Akhavan, I am a professor of International Law at the University of makgil in Montreal Canada, prosecutor of the international court of justice and a member of the organisation of lawyers of New York and Ontario.” He continued, “Joining me in the role of lead prosecutors are my two esteemed colleagues Mr John Cooper, head of the steering committee for Iran tribunal and Sir Geoffrey Nice – both two esteemed members of the organisation of lawyers in England, with many years experience in international law.” He went on to say, “It is with great pleasure that I introduce (the rest of) my colleagues on the prosecution team. Ms Nancy Hormachea, a member of the organisation of lawyers of Texas and California and member of the legal steering committee of Iran tribunal. Ms Mojdeh Shahriari, a member of the lawyers of British Columbia in Canada. Mr Kaveh Shahrooz, member of the lawyers of New York. Ms Gissou Nia, experienced human rights activist in the field of the War Crimes and human rights violations in the international court of justice in the Hague. Our presence in this court is voluntary. We participate in this tribunal with many years experience of human rights and international law. Some of us have experience as prosecutors in international human rights cases.”

He then went on to make the plea for the prosecution against the Islamic Republic of Iran and in referring to the crimes committed by the regime during the 1980’s, requested the court to find the regime guilty of crimes against humanity. John Cooper QC followed this with a short summary of the findings of the Truth Commission.  After the speeches provided by Judge Johan Kriegler and the two members of the prosecution team the court began proceedings with 6 witness statements. Maurice Copithorne, previous UN rapporteur on human rights in Iran and the head of the truth commission in London and Hedayat Matin Daftari, lawyer and president of the bar association in Iran after the revolution were the first two and provided statements as expert witnesses. Malakeh Mostafy-Soltani sister to five lost brothers from the Komala organisation, Mehdi Ashough a political prisoner and former member of the Mojahedin-e-Khalgh and narrowly escaped execution, Chowra Makerami who’s mother and aunt were both executed in the 1980’s, Shohreh Ghanbari a political prisoner and activist for the Peykar organisation all gave witness statements to the court.

Proceedings began on the second day with a few short remarks made by the president of the tribunal Judge Johan Kriegler. On this day 9 people gave witness statements; Amir Atiabi a former political prisoner and member of the Toudeh party of Iran, Jalil Shahrhani from the Arab population in Khuzestan who lost his brother, father and uncle at the hands of the regime, Ruhiyyih Jahanpour a member of the persecuted Baha’i community and former political prisoner, Mehdi Mehmarpour a former political prisoner who was imprisoned despite having no particular political affiliation, Shokoufeh Sakhi a previous member of the Razmandegan organisation and former political prisoner, Nima Sarvestani a film director who’s brother was executed during this era , Ahmad Muosavi a former political prisoner and political activist for the Fadaiian Organisation (minority), Mehdi Aslani a former political prisoner and member of the Fadaiian organision – Shanzadi Azar, Nader Boukani a previous political prisoner and from the organisation of revolutionary workers of Iran (rah karegar).

On day three proceedings began once again with a few words from the President of the tribunal Johan Kriegler. On this day four people gave witness statements including an expert statement given by Anne burley a human rights activist and previous reporter on the Human Rights situation in Iran for Amnesty international and member of the Truth Commission for the Iran Tribunal, Naval Mohsen wife of executed Hossein Riahi from the Iranian Union communists, Sadegh Nahumi a former political prisoner and previous activist for the Fadaiian Organisation (Majority) and Iraj Mesdaghi a former political prisoner and previous member of the Mojahedin-e-Khalgh.

After the witness statements were given Leyla Ghalebani gave a heartfelt statement of gratitude on behalf of the witnesses and the families of the victims to all those who had worked for the tribunal in the past five years. This statement of gratitude was particularly extended to the judges and prosecutors who had participated in the tribunal voluntarily and had helped to make the tribunal both a successful and historic event for the families of those who lost their lives and to the people of Iran.

Following this statement the closing submissions were made by the prosecution beginning with Sir Geoffrey Nice who gave a summary of the crimes committed in the 1980’s as told by the witnesses and the report of the truth commission. He compared the crimes committed by the Islamic Republic of Iran in the 1980’s to those committed by the Nazi regime in Germany. Payam Akhavan provided the final closing submission in which he asked the court to condemn the Islamic regime for the mass executions and killings throughout the 1980’s, he remarked,

“The prosecution requests to adjudge and declare that between 1981 and 1988 the Islamic republic of Iran through its official organs and agents committed widespread and systematic violations of the fundamental human rights of tens of thousands of its citizens, that such violations were committed pursuant to or in furtherance of the state policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran”.

The court adjourned at 1 pm on Saturday the 27th of October 2012 to reach their verdict. In this space of time the media group of the Iran Tribunal held a round table led by Sahar Mohammadi and Saeed Afshar. The participants included Mersedeh Ghalandi, Mansoureh Bashkandi, Behrooz Partou, Parand Meysami and Ardavan Zibram. The participants in this round table discussed many of the issues that have arisen since the start of the tribunal until this final stage and took views from those present in the hall about the future of the tribunal.

The court returned at 4.30pm and the President of the Tribunal Judge John Kriegler, gave a summary of the verdict against the Islamic Republic of Iran. “The evidence speaks for itself, it constitutes overwhelming proof that systemic and systematic abuses of human rights were committed by and on behalf of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”  He continued, “This tribunal rests on the authority of international law and the primacy of the rule of law as adjudicated by independent and impartial international judges.” In his final remarks he concluded that, “There are 6 forms of gross human rights abuses to which the evidence presented to the truth commission and to this tribunal point incontrovertibly; murder, torture, unjust imprisonment, sexual violence, persecution and enforced disappearance.”

 The court will give its final verdict in 2 to 3 months time. After the summary verdict was given, each of the judges gave a few words on the historic value of the hearing and the value of the witness statements. They each gave thanks that they were able to participate in this people’s court.

After announcing the historic verdict against the Islamic republic of Iran, the atmosphere in the court where more than 250 people were present was solemn and tearful. Fariborz Fakhari a musician played to the courtroom a piece of music in dedication to the thousands of men and women who lost their lives in prison in the Islamic republic of Iran. The emotional scenes in the hall and the historic moment will undoubtedly remain in the hearts and minds of the millions of viewers in Iran and outside of Iran.

That evening more than 150 members and participants of the Iran Tribunal celebrated this victory at a venue in The Hague. In this event, Shirin Mehrbad and the Mahyar group played a few songs dedicated to Iran Tribunal.

Iran Tribunal Campaign