Amnesty International has hailed a letter sent by UN experts to the Iranian government pressing for accountability over notorious prison massacres of dissidents in 1988.
The human rights experts warned in their letter that past and ongoing violations related to the massacres “may amount to crimes against humanity,” Amnesty International said on December 9 in a news release.
Amnesty International and other rights groups have long pushed for accountability over what they describe as the extrajudicial executions of thousands of mainly young people across Iran in 1988 just as the war with Iraq was ending.
Those killed were mainly supporters of the People's Mujahedin of Iran, a banned group in the country that had backed Baghdad during the conflict.
Activists say thousands were killed in executions that took place without proper trials. The actual number is still unclear. Amnesty International said in a 2018 report that the executions took place in at least 32 cities across Iran within a matter of weeks in July-September 1988.
Amnesty International, which described the massacres as crimes against humanity in its report two years ago, accuses Iran of "systematically" concealing the circumstances surrounding the deaths and the whereabouts of remains.
The London-based rights organization called the letter "a momentous breakthrough" that marks a turning point for the victims’ families and survivors.
“Top UN human rights experts have now sent an unequivocal, and long overdue, message: the ongoing crimes of mass enforced disappearances resulting from the secret extrajudicial executions of 1988 can no longer go unaddressed and unpunished,” said Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty International’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa.
The letter, first sent to the Iranian government in September, says the UN experts “are seriously concerned by the alleged continued refusal to disclose the fate and whereabouts” of the people who were killed.
They say they are alarmed by the authorities’ refusal to provide families with death certificates, harassment of the families, and other matters such as the destruction of mass graves and statements from the government denying the cases.
The experts call for independent investigations into all cases, the return of human remains to their families, and the prosecution of the perpetrators among other things.
The UN confirmed the contents of the letter, which is only now being made public.