On the eve of the second anniversary of Iran’s November 2019 protests, a People's Tribunal organized by human rights advocates has opened in London Wednesday.

The protests were the bloodiest in Iran’s history with security forces opening fire on demonstrators in many cities, killing hundreds.

On Wednesday, the counsel and panel of the three-day Iran Atrocities Tribunal heard the process and methodology used for gathering evidence and the testimonies of the witnesses and victims and security procedures to protect witnesses. It then proceeded to hearing the first witness, Amin Ansarifar, via video-link from Iran through a translator.

Ansarifar is testifying about the death of his son, Farzad who was a bystander shot in Behbahan in southern Iran. "The autopsy showed that my son had been shot in the head with a Kalashnikov," he said adding that the weapon is a standard issue used by all security forces including the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and the police.

He also said the family had been told by the authorities not to publicize the death of his son and that he filed a complaint with the authorities to no avail. Ansarifard said family members including his daughter and brother have been harassed and prosecuted for propaganda against the regime and talking to foreign-based media.

After hearing the evidence and deliberating, the panel of the Tribunal will determine whether crimes under international law have been committed by Iranian state forces and paramilitaries during the protests. The panel will also identify the perpetrators in its final judgment.

The tribunal − also known as Aban Tribunal after the Iranian calendar month of Aban − was established on the first anniversary of the November 2019 protests by the London-based Justice for Iran, the Oslo-based Iran Human Rights (IHR), and the international anti-capital punishment organization Ensemble Contre la Peine de Mort (Together Against the Death Penalty) to investigate “atrocities” and “human rights violations by Iran” during the protests that left hundreds dead. The verdicts of theTribunal will be symbolic.

Organizers say the findings of rigorous investigations conducted by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation Of Human Rights in Iran, the UN Secretary General, and organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Justice for Iran and Iran Human Rights, provide "paramount evidence on grave human rights violations" committed by state forces during the protests and the absolute impunity the perpetrators have enjoyed.

The tribunal will hear and examine evidence and testimonies on crimes against humanity, extrajudicial killings and executions, torture, rape of prisoners, and harassment of the families of the victims which organizers say all indicate an extensive systematic state policy behind suppressing protesters. The Iranian Constitution recognizes the right to peaceful protests.

In March the Tribunal wrote to Iran’s ambassador in The Hague, Alireza Kazemi Gharibadi, to inform him that it had “charged” Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, President Hassan Rouhani and former Chief Justice and current President, Ebrahim Raeesi, with gross human rights violations and crimes against humanity related to protests in 2019.

According to the group’s statement issued on March 3, the letter called on the named individuals including Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and police commanders to attend hearings organized by the Tribunal which had originally been due in July to answer allegations made against them.

Iran has not officially announced figures for deaths or arrests, nor put anyone on trial for killing protesters, but has prosecuted and passed heavy sentences including the death penalty on protesters on charges including “assembly and collusion against the regime.” Officials, including Interior Minister have put the number at over 200.

Amnesty International has reported the killing of at least 304 protesters including at least 23 minors. Reuters on December 23, 2019 claimed three sources close to Khamenei’s inner circle had confirmed he had grown impatient and ordered officials to stop the protests. According to Reuters about 1,500 people were killed in the two weeks after November 15.

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