While the world rightly sanctions Iran over its nuclear proliferation, it is has been far less forceful in censuring the appalling human rights abuses in the Islamic Republic. Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, 43-year-old mother of two, anxiously awaits her impending stoning sentence.
Last month the Tehran regime announced that the execution of political prisoner Jaafar Kazemi was imminent. His crime? Refusing to appear on state television to denounce the activities of his teenage son who has joined the opposition People's Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI) in Camp Ashraf in Iraq. In July the regime amputated the hands of six men accused of stealing.
Such brutality is not uncommon in Iran which has to date executed more than 120,000 political prisoners. In the summer of 1988, after reluctantly signing a ceasefire in the Iran-Iraq war, Ayatollah Khomeini ordered the massacre of 30,000 Iranian men and women who continued to support the opposition movement, according to the survivors of the slaughter.
A special body, known to prisoners as the 'Death Commission' was tasked with implementing Khomeini's fatwa. In 5-minute-long kangaroo trials, prisoners were asked about their politico-ideological allegiances. Those who showed the slightest sign of maintaining sympathy with the Mojahedin were sent for execution in groups of five or six at a time.
Officials who led the 1988 massacre continue to hold high offices and several are retired judges. Top officials include Iran's current Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, recent presidential candidate Mir Hossein Moussavi, and the former head of the Supreme Court Abdolkarim Mousavi Ardebili.
Iran's current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is said by former political prisoners to have been a prison official attached to the Revolutionary Guards in the 1980s, and he became infamously known to prisoners as the 'man of a thousand bullets', a nickname coined notoriously over his role in firing the final execution bullets for large numbers of prisoners.
Following the disputed Presidential election last summer and the wave of public protests that ensued, Ahmadinejad's government arrested thousands of political opponents.
As protests became more radicalised, adopting a call for regime change, the human rights situation once again rapidly deteriorated. The regime has stepped up arbitrary arrests of its opponents, students, women, human rights and democracy activists and ethnic and religious minorities. UN agencies and international human rights organisations have reported a systematic use of torture, including burning, flogging, amputation, gang rape and political executions in prisons.
To justify political executions – banned under Islam – the regime charges its opponents with “Moharebeh”, or waging war on God. Jaafar Kazemi is one such victim whose plight has been highlighted by Amnesty International, which claims that at least six other relatives of opposition members are on death row on the same pretext.
Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi has recently urged the United Nations Security Council to set up a special tribunal to try the perpetrators of the 1988 massacre, since they today hold senior political and judicial positions and continue their murderous and criminal acts.
As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, Britain has a duty to uphold the principles of democracy and speak out when a UN member state commits a crime against humanity. We have a responsibility now to back the Iranian opposition's call for an international tribunal, similar to the current one investigating war crimes by the former President of Liberia, and we should officially present a resolution at the Security Council to this effect.
And while innocent women such as Ms. Ashtiani anxiously await their stoning sentence and men such as Mr. Kazemi await execution, surely the British government must cut all bilateral trade and political ties with the regime until an end to human rights abuses in the Islamic Republic.