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Brave Slovenia is right to seek accountability over the 1988 massacre in Iran

Last week, Slovenia’s Prime Minister Janez Jansa caught the world’s attention when he publicly called for an international investigation into the 1988 massacre of 30,000 political prisoners in Iran and specifically the role of President-elect Ebrahim Raisi in that massacre.

Addressing the Free Iran World Summit 2021 alongside distinguished international personalities such as former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and several European former prime ministers and foreign ministers, Prime Minister Jansa stated: “For nearly 33 years, the world had forgotten about the victims of the massacre. This should change. A United Nations Commission of Inquiry is of crucial importance to shed light over the horrible 1988 massacre. Families of the victims seek a Commission of Inquiry so that they could finally obtain justice and closure.”

“This is especially important in light of the fact that the regime’s next President will be Ebrahim Raisi who is accused by Amnesty International of crimes against humanity for his role in the massacre.”

“I therefore once again clearly and loudly support the call of the UN investigator on human rights in Iran who has called for an independent inquiry into allegations of state-ordered executions of thousands of political prisoners and the role played by the President-elect as Tehran deputy prosecutor,” Prime Minister Jansa added.

The message by Slovenia’s Prime Minister immediately drew frantic reaction from Tehran, which has spent the past three decades trying to cover up the 1988 massacre. The regime summoned Slovenia’s Ambassador, while its propagandist-in-chief, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, failed in a desperate attempt to get the EU to issue a statement criticizing Prime Minister Jansa.

While lobbyists for Iran’s regime, that routinely smear the main opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI or MEK), are now attacking Mr. Jansa for supporting a UN inquiry into the 1988 massacre, the Slovenian Premier’s call has garnered strong international support both in Europe and North America. A group of European lawmakers in a letter welcomed the position, while former Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird pointed to the “moral leadership and courage” of Slovenia. In the US, former Attorney General Michael Mukasey said Slovenia should wear the wrath and criticism coming from Tehran “as a badge of honor.”

As a former Foreign Minister of an EU country, I believe Mr. Jansa’s call was perhaps the most ‘responsible’ act by a sitting EU Prime Minister in defense of accountability, justice, and the rule of law against crimes against humanity that have so far gone unpunished.

The 1988 Massacre

Following a fatwa by Ayatollah Khomeini in the summer of 1988, Death Commissions were formed around Iran sending political prisoners who refused to abandon their beliefs to execution. Upwards of 30,000 political prisoners, the vast majority members of the MEK, were executed. The victims were buried in secret mass graves. Among the perpetrators of that massacre who continue to enjoy impunity is Ebrahim Raisi who in 1988 was Deputy Prosecutor of Tehran and a member of the Death Commissions and who next month will officially take office as Iran’s President. Accountability for the 1988 massacre is long overdue.

Mr. Jansa is not the only international figure to have called for a UN inquiry.

On 29 June 2021, the current UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran Javaid Rehman called for an independent inquiry into the 1988 massacre and the role played by President-elect Ebrahim Raisi as Tehran deputy prosecutor.

On 3 May 2021, more than 150 former UN officials and renowned international human rights and legal experts wrote to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, calling for an international Commission of Inquiry into the 1988 massacre. Signatories to the open letter include former UN High Commissioner and Irish President Mary Robinson, a former UN Deputy Secretary-General, 28 former UN Special Rapporteurs on human rights, and the chairs of previous UN Commissions of Inquiry into human rights abuses in Eritrea and North Korea.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International’s Secretary General Agnès Callamard said on 19 June 2021: “That Ebrahim Raisi has risen to the presidency instead of being investigated for the crimes against humanity of murder, enforced disappearance and torture, is a grim reminder that impunity reigns supreme in Iran. … We continue to call for Ebrahim Raisi to be investigated for his involvement in past and ongoing crimes under international law, including by states that exercise universal jurisdiction.”

The free media should applaud the Prime Minister of Slovenia for having the courage to say the impunity must end for Iran’s regime. The EU’s High Representative Josep Borrell should end ‘business as usual’ with a regime led by mass murderers. Instead, he should encourage all EU member states to join Slovenia in demanding accountability for Iran’s greatest crime against humanity.

By Giulio Terzi

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