Prominent former UN officials have called for a UN investigation into the 1988 "massacre" of political prisoners in Iran, including the role of President Ebrahim Raisi, at that time.
The open letter released on Thursday, addressed to the UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet, and seen by Reuters, was signed by some 460 people, including a former president of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Sang-Hyun Song, and Stephen Rapp, a former US ambassador for global criminal justice.
Raisi, who took office in August, is under US sanctions over a past that includes what the United States and activists say was his involvement as one of four judges who oversaw the 1988 killings. Reuters said his office in Tehran had no comment on Thursday.
Iran has never acknowledged that mass executions took place under Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the revolutionary leader who died in 1989. The victims were mostly members of the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MEK) and leftist activists.
A group of UN human rights experts had issued a warning to the government of Iran in December 2020 that violations related to the massacres of political prisoners in 1988 in 32 cities may amount to crimes against humanity and that they will call for an international investigation if these violations persist. They said that covering up the crime at the present time constitutes additional violations.
Amnesty International has put the number executed at some 5,000, saying in a 2018 report that "the real number could be higher".
"The perpetrators continue to enjoy impunity. They include the current Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and judiciary chief Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ejei," said the open letter. Ejei succeeded Raisi as head of Iran's judiciary.
Twenty-five Nobel prize winners in a letter last September to United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had also urged the UN to set up an international commission to investigate the prison killings and particularly Raisi’s role.
Raisi, when asked about activists' allegations that he was involved in the killings, told a news conference in June 2021: "If a judge, a prosecutor has defended the security of the people, he should be praised." He added: "I am proud to have defended human rights in every position I have held so far."
The letter, organized by the British-based group Justice for Victims of the 1988 Massacre in Iran, was also sent to the UN Human Rights Council, whose 47 member states open a five-week session on February 28.
Other signatories include previous UN investigators into torture and former foreign ministers of Australia, Belgium, Canada, Italy, Kosovo and Poland.
The trial of a man arrested in Sweden for his role in the killings started last year and dozens of survivors and relatives have testified about the way prisoners were executed after summary trials.
Javaid Rehman, the UN investigator on human rights in Iran who is due to report to the session, called in an interview with Reuters last June for an independent inquiry into the allegations of state-ordered executions in 1988 and the role played by Raisi as Tehran deputy prosecutor.
Based on Reuters report