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Securing international inquiry into the 1988 massacre will win over the Iranian people

4 min read

Conservative MP Bob Blackman writes that securing an international inquiry into the 1988 massacre of thousands of political prisoners will win over the Iranian people.

Earlier in September, the UN Secretary General sent the latest report of the Special Rapporteur on Iran’s human rights to the General Assembly for discussion. The August 14 report provides a detailed account of a series of serious abuses that were carried out by the Iranian authorities in the past year year.

But this year's report is unique compared with previous reports because the Special Rapporteur highlights the massacre of thousands of political prisoners in 1988. The report documents the direct involvement of senior Iranian officials and current ministers in carrying out and defending these mass executions as well as the authorities’ efforts to destroy evidence of mass graves and to harass, intimidate and prosecute those who seek truth and justice.

On September 21, the UN Security Council adopted a historic resolution proposed by the UK to bring Daesh to justice. According to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office statement, “the resolution was passed by the Security Council following a letter written to the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres from the Iraqi Prime Minister and Foreign Minister requesting international support of Iraqi efforts to bring Daesh to justice.”

This shows that Britain is in a strong position to lead the demand for justice for the victims of the 1988 massacre in Iran, if it has the political will and moral courage.

Despite their claims of moderation and calls to action by the UN Special Rapporteur, neither Iranian President Hassan Rouhani nor Foreign Minister Javad Zarif are willing or able to make a similar request of the UN Secretary General regarding the 1988 massacre. In lieu of this, the Foreign Secretary, the Rt Hon Boris Johnson, could send a letter on behalf of the Government requesting international support of the efforts by the victims’ families and Iranian human rights defenders to bring the perpetrators of the massacre to justice.

Furthermore, the Government should work with its allies at the UN to ensure that any planned UN resolution on the human rights situation calls for an international investigation into these mass executions as a vital step toward holding the perpetrators to account and reaffirming our backing for the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on Iran.

In the previous parliament, 80 MPs from multiple parties supported Early Day Motion 448, which urged the Government to “recognise and condemn this brutal massacre as a crime against humanity and ask the UN Human Rights Commissioner, Human Rights Council, the General Assembly and the Security Council to order an investigation and bring the perpetrators to justice.”

In a press conference with his American counterpart in London on September 14, the Foreign Secretary said, “… we in the UK think it very important that Iran, that country of 80 million people, many of them young, potentially liberal, could be won over – could be won over to a new way of thinking.”

During the last presidential elections, Iranian society and particularly the younger generation demanded the prosecution of those responsible for the 1988 massacre, one of the worst crimes in the history of the theocratic regime. They would surely prefer Britain helping them secure justice rather than applauding Britain’s support for a fallible nuclear agreement that showers the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) with cash and sanctions relief that the paramilitary force can use to further intensify the vicious domestic crackdown on human rights defenders and women’s rights activists under Rouhani’s tenure.

As the FCO Minister for Middle East, the Rt Hon Alistair Burt reminded the UN Security Council meeting in his statement on the adoption of the Daesh Resolution, “’The millstones of justice turn exceeding slow, but they grind exceeding fine.’ Those millstones have begun moving today.”

For Iranians for the pursuit of justice begun 29 years ago amid the “global denial” of these mass executions. Our government now has the means to help the Iranian people realise their destiny.

Bob Blackman is the Conservative Member of Parliament for Harrow East

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