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IBAHRI calls for United Nations action following opening of people’s tribunal on Iran atrocities

Saturday 13 November 2021

Following the opening of the International People’s Tribunal on Iran’s Atrocities of November 2019, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) calls for the establishment of a United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) independent mechanism to further investigate the alleged commission of atrocity crimes by Iranian authorities during and following the November 2019 crackdown in Iran.

Created by a mandate given to a group of renowned international lawyers and human rights advocates by three civil society organisations – Justice for Iran, the Center for Human Rights in Iran and Together against the Death Penalty (EPCM) – the hearings of the International People’s Tribunal on Iran’s Atrocities of November 2019 are currently taking place until 14 November at Church House Westminster, London, United Kingdom. They are accessible to the public. To attend in-person register here, or watch the online live stream. Evidence is being heard from 45 witnesses, and the roles of 133 government officials are to be investigated.

IBAHRI Co-Chair and Immediate Past Secretary-General of the Swedish Bar Association, Anne Ramberg Dr Jur hc commented: ‘It is too often the case that a lack of political will to investigate alleged atrocities committed by state actors gives rise to grassroots initiatives to provide a semblance of justice to victims and their loved ones and associates. The IBAHRI welcomes and applauds the International People’s Tribunal on Iran’s Atrocities of November 2019 for stepping into the obvious breach. However, with the 76th UN General Assembly in progress we urge Member States to call for an end to impunity where it is found that power is being abused and the legitimate rights of a nations’ citizens to peaceful protest have been, and continue to be, attacked. The creation of an UNHRC independent mechanism in relation to Iran appears as such an instance and would be welcome by the IBAHRI’.

Also known as the Aban Tribunal, the International People’s Tribunal on Iran’s Atrocities of November 2019 was established as a response by civil society, international lawyers, experts and civilians to circumvent the lack of intention of Iran’s authorities to investigate the widely reported crimes in Iran following anti-government demonstrations. The Tribunal is comprised of six experts in human rights law and international relations from Indonesia, Libya, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Leading the investigations are co-counsel Hamid Sabi and Regina Paulose.

In an opening statement, Hamid Sabi demonstrated Iran’s history of impunity for gross human rights abuses saying: ‘In the summer of 1988, the regime committed its worst atrocity, killing thousands of young political prisoners in all the prisons across the country. A matter that was investigated by the Iran Tribunal and other People’s Tribunals, condemning the Islamic Republic for crimes against humanity in its final judgment. Thousands of young innocent prisoners whose only crime was opposing the oppressive regime of Mullah’s, most of them having served excessive prison terms imposed upon them after a few minutes trial, were then brought before a committee nicknamed as the ‘death committee’ and murdered by the express fatwa of the leader. Their bodies were dumped in mass graves.’

He added: ‘Over the last 42 years that this regime has been in power, in spite of murders, tortures, gross violations of human rights, sexual abuse and embezzlement of public funds, not a single member of the ruling clique has faced prosecution or trial.’

On 15 November 2019, following a sudden spike in fuel prices, peaceful protests broke out across Iran that led to wider anti-government calls, including demands for constitutional reforms and an end to the Islamic Republic system. Security forces responded to the mostly peaceful protestors with a disproportionate and excessive use of force and a total internet shutdown, which inhibited access to information and severely limited monitoring and international scrutiny of human rights violations. As a result of the Iranian Government’s use of force, reports cited the killing of at least 304 people, the arrest of thousands of protestors and interrogations that often involved torture and inhumane treatment and/or enforced disappearances.

IBAHRI Vice-Chair Mark Stephens CBE, Partner at Howard Kennedy, commented: ‘The Iranian government has taken no steps to investigate, prosecute and punish the alleged perpetrators of the reported crimes of November 2019. Victims and their families have been left without recourse to justice. Contrarily, these individuals often tell of intimidation and harassment by the authorities. The Aban Tribunal is a starting point for justice in these cases, but a UNHRC mechanism will be supremely placed to augment the Tribunal’s endeavours in gathering and documenting evidence for future trials to hold alleged perpetrators accountable. In any other circumstance if such a number of people were killed, tortured or were to simply “disappear” one would expect an immediate outcry and investigation. That people are stepping forward, despite the potential of severe retribution, to tell their truths and allege this is happening at the instruction of people in Iran’s government behoves action by the international community via the UN to ensure accountability and justice’.

On 11 November, as day two of the hearing took place, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister and lead nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani was in London for talks with British officials. News outlet VOA reported visiting the Iranian Consulate in London seeking comment about the Aban Tribunal, and that no comment was provided and the reporter was escorted from the premises.

ENDS

Notes to the Editor

  1. Aban’, as in the Aban Tribunal, is a reference to the month in which the alleged atrocities took place.
  2. The members of the International People’s Tribunal on Iran’s Atrocities of November 2019 include:
    Wayne Jordash QC, the Chair of the panel, is an international criminal lawyer who has appeared before the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. He has also previously acted as advisor to the Principal Defender at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.

    Dr Carla Ferstman is a senior lecturer at the University of Essex’s School of Law and member of the experts committee of the Group of Friends of the Convention Against Torture Initiative.

    Nursyahbani Katjasungkana is a prosecutor at the Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal on Japan’s Military Sexual Slavery and organiser of the People’s Tribunal on Indonesia.

    Colleen Rohan is an expert in criminal defence litigation who has appeared before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia and other international courts.

    Elham Saudi is the co-founder and Director of Lawyers for Justice in Libya, visiting professor at the Helena Kennedy Centre for International Justice and a former Associate Fellow of the International Law Programme at Chatham House.

    Zak Yaccob is a former justice of South Africa’s Constitutional Court and an anti-apartheid activist, who led an international panel of judges presiding over the International People’s Tribunal on 1965 Crimes Against Humanity in Indonesia and was a panellist on the People’s Tribunal on Economic Crime in South Africa.
  3. Related material:
    IRAN: Organisations express concern over arbitrary imprisonment of Dr Reza Eslami and call for his release
    IBAHRI condemns spate of executions in Iran and calls for a halt
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