Horrifying Audio File of Top Iran Official Confirms the 1988 Massacre of Political Prisoners
The recent publication of a shocking audio recording of a meeting of Ayatollah Montazeri, designated successor to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini, in the midst of the mass execution of political prisoners in the summer of 1988, reveals another dimension of this horrific crime and underscores the need to investigate this atrocity.
On the twenty-eighth anniversary of the massacre of an estimated 30.000 political prisoners in Iran, most of whom were members and supporters of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI / MEK), the International Committee In Search of Justice (ISJ) once again emphasizes the need to refer this massacre which is a real holocaust, to the UN Security Council and to establish an international tribunal to prosecute those responsible for this barbarity.
The ISJ emphasizes the following points in this regard:
1- Khomeini issued a fatwa around 25 July 1988 (Annex 1):
“As the treacherous Hypocrites [a derogatory term used by the regime referring to the PMOI] do not believe in Islam and their statements are rooted in deception and hypocrisy, and as their leaders have confessed that they have become renegades, and as they are waging war on God, and as they are engaging in classical warfare on the western, northern and southern fronts, and as they are collaborating with the Baathist Party of Iraq and spying for Saddam [Hussein] against our Muslim nation, and as they are tied to the World Arrogance, and in light of their cowardly blows to the Islamic Republic since its inception, it is decreed that those who are in prison throughout the country and remain steadfast in their support for the Hypocrites are waging war on God and are condemned to execution.
The task of implementing the decree in Tehran is entrusted to Hojjatol-Islam Nayyeri, the sharia judge, Mr. Eshraqi, the Tehran prosecutor, and a representative of the Intelligence Ministry … In prisons in the provinces, the views of a majority of a trio consisting of the sharia judge, the revolutionary prosecutor, and the Intelligence Ministry representative must be obeyed. It is naive to show mercy to those who wage war on God … Those who are making the decisions must not hesitate, nor show any doubt or be concerned with details…”
2- Subsequently, Moussavi Ardebili, then Chief Justice, asked Khomeini if the decree applied to those who had been in prison, who had already been tried and sentenced to limited jail terms and who had
already served part of their terms. He also asked: “In reviewing the status of the Hypocrites prisoners, is it necessary to refer the cases of Hypocrites prisoners in provinces that have an independent judicial organ to the provincial center or can the province's judicial authorities act autonomously?” (Annex 2)
“In all the above cases, if the person at any stage or at any time maintains his [or her] support for the Hypocrites, the sentence is execution. Annihilate the enemies of Islam immediately. As regards the cases, use whichever criterion that speeds up the implementation of the verdict.”
Based on this fatwa more than 30,000 political prisoners were executed in 1988. (Annex 3, 4, 5)
3- At that time, Khomeini's successor Grand Ayatollah Montazeri protested the extent of the massacre, which he viewed as against the interests of the regime. He wrote two letters to Khomeini (Annex 6 and 7) and one to officials responsible for implementing the task in July and August 1988 (Annex 8), stating that the execution of several thousand prisoners in a few days would not have positive repercussions, and that the PMOI were “an idea” and “a logic”, which would be strengthened by these killings. “If you insist on your decree … spare the women with children.” Khomeini not only ignored his recommendations, but became extremely enraged and ousted Montazeri, who subsequently was put on house arrest until his death in 2009. Khomeini himself died in 1989 and was succeeded by Ali Khamenei as Supreme Leader.
4- On 9 August, 2016, twenty-eight years after the carnage, the audio recording of Montazeri’s meeting on 15 August 1988 with those responsible for the massacre of PMOI political prisoners was published by his son Ahmad Montazeri. The tape clearly shows that both the hard-line faction of Khamenei and the “moderate” faction of Rouhani -Rafsanjani were deeply involved in this crime. In the audio file Montazeri addresses the so called “Death Committee” consisting of four people: Mostafa Pourmohammadi, representative of the Ministry of Intelligence (MOIS) in Evin Prison; Hossein Ali Nayyeri, Sharia judge; Morteza Eshraghi, public prosecutor; and Ebrahim Raeesi, deputy prosecutor, who collectively decided on the executions in Tehran. Similar committees were formed in the provinces and other cities.
5- The Death Committee members Pourmohammadi, Nayyeri and Raeesi, have consistently held top political, security and judicial positions within the Islamic Republic of Iran to this day and have had direct roles in the majority of the regime's crimes. (Annex 9)
6- This tape clearly exposes the extent of the crime.
Link to the sound file: https://soundcloud.com/bbcpersian/1367a
Excerpts of the tape:
Montazeri: 'In the (prisons) in cities they did everything imaginable ... in Ahvaz, it was truly awful.'
A member of the Death Committee: “Many of those on death row have other members of their family who were executed, some were 15-16 years old at the time of their arrest.”
Montazeri: 'This judge or that judge, in this town or in that town, had condemned someone to 5, 6, 10 or 15 year sentences. Well now if we go and execute them without any new activity; that means our entire judicial system is flawed.'
Montazeri: 'Three days ago the Sharia judge of one the provinces, who is a trustworthy man, came to me with sadness and said the intelligence official or the prosecutor, in order to determine if a prisoner was steadfast or not, asked him ‘Are you ready to condemn the Hypocrites? He said yes. He was asked, ‘Are you ready to give an interview?’ He said yes. Asked, ‘Are you ready to go to war with Iraq?’ He said yes. Asked, ‘Are you ready to go onto the minefield?’ He said not all people are ready to go on a mine. The judge said, ‘Then you are steadfast,’ and they executed him.”
7- The executions were planned from years before.
Excerpt of the tape:
Montazeri to Pourmohammadi: “This [the mass executions] was planned long ago and is something that the Intelligence [Ministry] was planning, and had invested in, and Ahmad Agha [Khomeini’s son], has been saying for three or four years that ‘The Mojahedin [PMOI], from the one who reads their newspaper, to the one who reads their magazine, to the one who reads their statements – all of them must be executed.’”
8- There was a particular hatred against women supporters of PMOI
Excerpts of the tape:
Montazeri: “This one guy, his brother was in prison.. they said his sister was also a suspect. So they went and brought his sister. They executed him. They had brought his sister only two days earlier; they questioned her, she said well I liked these people [PMOI]. She was only 15 or 16 years old… she is only a girl. He [the judge] replied: execute her too, and they did.”
Montazeri: 'In Isfahan a pregnant woman was among them (the victims); in Isfahan they executed a pregnant woman.'
Montazeri: “In Shiite Jurisprudence, women should not be executed even if they are ‘Mohareb’ (at war with God), I reminded Khomeini that according to the decrees of most religious experts, a woman, even if she is a Mohareb must not be executed. But he did not agree, and said that women, too, must be executed.”
9- Who are the “Liberals” within the regime?
Excerpts of the tape:
Montazeri: “This situation with Mr Mousavi Ardebili, whom I know to be more liberal than all others; he said in the in the Friday Prayer all the Hypocrite prisoners must be executed... And then when he wants to ask the Imam (Khomeini), whether we should execute them in the provinces or in the cities? This is his question from the Imam!”
10- People were disgusted by the ‘Velayat-e-Faqih’ [absolute rule of supreme clergy]:
Excerpts of the tape:
Montazeri: 'I said to Ahmad Agha [Khomeini’s son], I feel heartbroken for Khomeini. I did not want it to be like this. People are disgusted by the velayat-e-faqih[absolute rule of supreme clergy]. I did not want the velayat-e-faqih to come to this point. … Fifty years from now, they may judge us and say that the Imam was a bloodthirsty killer. We have shown the ugly face of the supreme leader. God knows that, as far as the people are concerned, with this extremism and these arrests, we have done this [damage] to Islam.'
11- From a legal and international perspective, the published audio tape is a new, indisputable evidence that the massacre of 1988 was a premeditated, planned and targeted project to annihilate members and supporters of the PMOI, and by any definition, is a genocide and a crime against humanity. (Annex 10)
The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court stipulates in Article 7:
'For the purpose of this Statute, 'crime against humanity' means any of the following acts when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack. '
The Statute lists 11 acts as examples of crimes against humanity, most of which have been implemented in the case of the PMOI in the course of the 1988 massacre of political prisoners in Iran, or in the clampdowns and executions carried out in previous or later years.
Article 6 of the statute defines genocide as the following:
'For the purpose of this Statute, 'genocide' means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;”
The first sentence in Khomeini's decree for the massacre of political prisoners explicitly states: 'The traitor Hypocrites [derogatory term for the PMOI] do not believe in Islam and whatever they say is out of hypocrisy and deceit.' This clearly reveals that Khomeini's primary reason for the mass execution was PMOI’s different interpretation of Islam.
12. Formation of courts to investigate the massacres in Srebrenica and Rwanda, as well as the assassination of the former Prime Minister of Lebanon Rafiq Hariri, were necessary steps to prevent or at least undermine the possibility of similar crimes taking place. The massacre of 1988 is the worst massacre of political prisoners since (and perhaps even before) the Second World War. The masterminds, officials in charge, as well as the perpetrators and executioners who carried out the massacre are well known figures still holding public offices. Indisputable evidence and documents are available. This new audio evidence is the ‘Black Box’ of the 1988 Prison Massacres in Iran.
World treaties, as well as international and state laws in many countries provide for investigation of this case. Therefore, the ISJ calls on the UN Security Council, the UN Human Rights Council, the US, the EU and its member states, and other relevant international agencies to launch all the necessary mechanisms to investigate this case. They should not allow the recurrence of such crimes.
Based on international conventions, neither crimes against humanity nor genocide are subject to any statute of limitations and thus will not fade with time. It is up to the international community to investigate this dossier and bring its perpetrators to justice.
Two points adds to the necessity for this investigation:
- This massacre and genocide did not stop in 1988 and continues to this date. The execution of 25 Sunni prisoners on 2 August 2016 is a recent example.
- The same officials in charge of the 1988 massacre are still at the helm of the Islamic Republic of Iran and are involved in the suppression and destruction of different sectors of Iranian society.
Considering the above points, we urge the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the next session of the Human Rights Council (in September 2016) and the next session of the General Assembly (September to December 2016) to include this topic in their agenda as a first step. We urge the UN Security Council to take up this case and also the General Assembly to demand in its resolution on human rights violations in Iran, the formation of an international tribunal to investigate the 1988 massacre as a crime against humanity.
Alejo Vidal-Quadras President, International Committee In Search of Justice (ISJ) Former Vice-President of the European Parliament (1999-2014)