Mike Freer is MP for Finchley and Golders Green.
In the week we upgrade our diplomatic presence in Iran to having a full Ambassador, the Iranian regime sentences a British woman, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, to five years imprisonment.
This follows a series of arrests of British-Iranian dual nationality citizens. What has received less publicity is the ongoing program of executions undertaken by the regime. Whilst the West banks progress we turn an apparent blind eye to the bloodletting used to suppress opposition.
August 2016 saw Hassan Rouhani’s supposedly moderate regime carry out a new spate of executions, including the mass execution of 20 members of a minority group.
Condemnation followed from many directions, including the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, who criticised the Iranian authorities and expressed “doubts about the fairness of the trials, respect for due process and other rights of the accused.”
This same month newly published audio recordings have emerged of meetings between Iran’s most senior clergymen in August 1988. In the recording the late Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri is heard accusing the leaders of Iran’s ‘death commission’ of “the greatest crime committed during the Islamic Republic, for which history will condemn us, has been committed by you…”
The late Ayatollah was referring to the massacre of tens of thousands of political opponents of the Iranian regime, including thousands of members of the People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI).
Tehran’s use of executions as a form of suppression of its population’s desire for democracy has continued from 1988 to the present day. Supposedly moderate Presidents have come and gone, but one thing that has never changed is the systematic use of executions.
Looking at the individuals who formed the ‘death commission’ leads us to a worrying conclusion: that in reality, although the puppet’s head may change from election to election, those pulling the strings in Iranian politics have remained.
Four men made up the commission that led the massacres in 1988. Today three of those men remain senior figures within the Iranian regime.
Mostafa Pourmohammadi is Iran’s Minister of Justice, Hossein-Ali Nayyeri Iran’s head of the Supreme Disciplinary Court for Judges, and Ebrahim Raeesi among the regime’s most senior clerics and the head of the Astan Qods-e Razavi foundation (a multi-billion dollar religious, political and economic conglomerate and one of the most important political and economic powerhouses in the clerical regime).
This week the leader of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), Iran’s largest coalition of opposition groups, called on the international community to bring about justice for those massacred in 1988 through the international prosecution of the masterminds of the 1988 massacre. I join her in that call.
Included in that list alongside Mostafa Pourmohammadi, Hossein-Ali Nayyeri, and Ebrahim Raeesi must be Ayatollah Khamenei Iran’s current Supreme Leader and a public supporter of the 1988 massacres.
It is time to take decisive steps sending a clear message to the leaders of Iran that executions which take place without a fair trial, respect for due process or without the individual’s rights being preserved will not be accepted by the international community. Have we sacrificed human rights for progress on decommissioning centrifuges?
It is important that in today’s climate, where Hassan Rouhani is hailed as a moderate and a man the international community can work with, that we do not simply address the man but rather the establishment in Tehran. Entry into the international community and the benefits that brings must come at a cost for Iran and not simply be a right of way.
Bringing about international prosecutions against the perpetrators of the 1988 massacre is not only something we should have done many years ago, but it will show Tehran that breaches of international protocols will not be accepted if the regime wishes to play a greater part in the international community.