Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Judgement day – Iran Tribunal exposes mass massacres of the 1980s

Family members of political prisoners executed during mass massacres of the 1980s and the summer of 1988, gather at Tehran’s Khavaran cemetery to commemorate their loved ones/ Iran Tribunal 
Following a harrowing three-day hearing at the Peace Palace in The Hague, the Iran Tribunal, a tribunal of conscience, delivered its interim judgement on October 27th.  According to the tribunal, the Islamic Republic of Iran committed crimes against humanity and gross violations of human rights against its citizens committed during “the bloody decade” of 1980s.

This is a monumental achievement for the survivors and families of the victims of the mass massacres of political prisoners in the 1980s. The Tribunal has allowed their voices to be officially recorded and heard in court for the first time in 25 years. Unlike atrocities in Rwanda, Srebrenica and General Pinochet's Chile, they never had any opportunity for justice and legal redress.

"The consequences of this judgment are profound,” says Prof John Cooper QC, the lead prosecutor at the tribunal. “It finally provides an independent and authoritative finding that the Islamic Republic of Iran [was] responsible for murdering and torturing [its] citizens on a staggering scale. This judgment, along with the carefully documented evidence from over 100 victims can now be presented to the international community as part of the victim's fight for justice.”

When the judgment was announced, the courtroom fell quiet.  The silence was thick with emotions held back for 25 years. Then the people in the assembly slowly stood up and held pictures of their loved ones killed by the Iranian regime in the purges of the 1980s.  All were weeping.

For me, it was an emotional moment as well as I have come to know many survivors and bereaved over the many years I’ve been trying to report the story. I’ve followed the making of the Iran Tribunal - a grassroots movement created by survivors and families of victims because no official bodies would investigate their complaints.  It is a testament to their determination and resilience that they’ve managed to put the truth out there after all these years. The process also exposes shortcomings of the UN and other international bodies, which were supposed to investigate these atrocities. For information about the Truth Commission, the first stage of the Iran Tribunal, click here.

Read my blog in the Economist about the Iran Tribunal’s judgement here.

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