“This is an important step forward in the struggle of the Iranian people for justice. There can be no democratic future in Iran without addressing the horrific crimes of the past.” – Professor Payam Akhavan the Chief Prosecutor, currently Professor of International Law at McGill University in Montreal, Canada.
The Iran Tribunal is an apolitical movement, particularly focused on the decade of human rights abuses perpetrated against political prisoners throughout the 1980s, culminating in the political massacres in the summer of 1988. The stated aim of the Tribunal is to hold the Islamic Republic of Iran to account for these massacres. This campaign is the culmination of a grassroots movement in Iran over the past 25 years, originated by the mothers, wives and sisters of victims.
Earlier this week the tribunal investigating crimes committed by the current Iranian regime against political prisoners in the 1980s completed its three day hearing in The Hague in front of a panel of judges that included Johann Kriegler, a former judge of South Africa’s highest court; Professor Michael Mansfield of City University, London; John Dugard, a South African professor of international law; Professor Patricia Viseur Sellers, a visiting fellow at Kellogg College of Oxford University, England; international human rights activist Mireille Fanon Mendes; Norman Paech, professor emeritus at the University of Hamburg, Germany and University of Buffalo Law School Dean Makau Mutua. The judges are expected to deliver a full judgment in November.
The Iran Tribunal heard firsthand accounts of atrocities committed against Iranian citizens under a fatwa issued by Ayatollah Khomeini, which is said to have resulted in between 5,000 and 30,000 citizens being tortured and executed for holding beliefs that conflicted with the regime.
A climate of fear and oppression
Shokoufeh Sakhi, who testified at the hearing, is currently a Political Science Ph.D. candidate (ABD) at York University, Toronto, Canada, where she is investigating the phenomenology of resistance. She is also the co-founder of Multiple Voices for Change in Iran. She arrived to Canada as a political refugee in 1992, two years after her release from the notorious Evin prison in Tehran. She was a student leftist political activist during and after the 1979 revolution. She was arrested in 1982 and spent eight years in several political prisons in Tehran and its suburban cities. The Mission for Establishment of Human Rights in Iran (MEHR IRAN) reported that Sakhi was confined for months in a coffin-like box. “What happened in the ’80s doesn’t belong to the people of the ’80s. It laid down the foundations of where these young people were born: they were born in a climate of fear and oppression, and they are used to it and accept it, but the roots for the present situation have to be found in the massacres of the ’80s,” she remarked.
The Government of Iran, not surprisingly, refused to attend the Tribunal. However, a brief account of human rights policies and practices of the Islamic Republic of Iran can be found on the Iranian Embassy’s Dutch website. “Iran’s commitment to promotion and protection of human rights is inherent, genuine and deeply rooted in the people’s beliefs and values. It is intertwined with nation’s hopes for a brighter, happier, more prosperous and saner future,” it argues.
Treatment of Prisoners
Article 38 of Iran’s Constitution relating to the treatment of prisoners states: “All forms of torture for the purpose of extracting confession or acquiring information are forbidden. Compulsion of individuals to testify, confess or to take an oath is not permissible; and any testimony, confession or oath obtained under duress is devoid of value and credence. Violation of this Article is liable to punishment in accordance with the law.”
Speaking for the Dead: Survivor Accounts of Iran’s 1988 Massacre is a collection of witness statements documenting the experiences of five female prisoners in connection with the Islamic Republic of Iran’s summary execution of thousands of political prisoners during the summer of 1988. The statements were prepared from in-person and telephone interviews conducted by the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center (IHRDC) during the summer of 2009. The following is part of the witness testimony of one of the five female prisoners.
After our court sessions, they took each of us to individual cells. These cells were like dungeons and were located on the lower level of the prison. When it was time for our first prayer session, Naserian (who was a strongly built man) came into my cell along with two other people and took me to the torture chamber for a whipping. The torture chamber was in a secluded place that did not allow sound to reverberate. This room had a special bed. They tied our hands and feet to the bed, threw a blanket on our heads, and shoved a dirty piece of cloth in our mouths. They wanted to shut us up. Then they whipped us. For a while, that dirty rag in my mouth caused me more trouble than the lashings. They beat us very badly. I had been beaten many times before, but this time it was different. They struck with intent to kill. They lashed me for five days, five times a day, eight lashes. They beat us with wire hoses that were filled. They were much heavier than the regular cables with which I had been beaten before. One prisoner’s leg broke as a result of the sheer force they applied. Naserian personally whipped us. After the first beating was done and I was untied from the bed, I could not walk. I was crawling on all fours. I remember that Naserian told me: “You wretch! I finally got to see you crawling too!”
The next time they beat me, I was wearing a blue skirt. They had tied my hands and placed a blanket over my legs. But when they hit me, I squirmed and struggled. My skirt slipped up and the blanket fell off my legs. Naserian and the soldiers ridiculed and insulted me a lot. The next day when they took me for whipping again, they told some of the guards to bring me a pair of pants so when my legs shot up they would not have to see my underwear.
So much for Iran’s constitution.
(Photo credit: Freedom Messenger)
Contributors to this report include: payvand.com | irantribunal.com |IHRDC | MEHR IRAN