Friday , 21 June 2024

Iran: President Raisi’s death must not deny victims of his grim human rights legacy their right to accountability

Amnesty – The death of president Ebrahim Raisi must not deny people in Iran their right to justice, truth and reparation for the litany of crimes under international law and human rights violations committed since the 1980s during his time in the echelons of power, said Amnesty International today, following his passing in a helicopter crash in East Azerbaijan province.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi giving a speech on 33rd Anniversary Khomeini's Death

Ebrahim Raisi, who at the age of 20 was appointed as Prosecutor General of Karaj, Alborz province, in 1980, quickly rose through the ranks to assume various senior judicial and executive positions, before becoming president in 2021. Over the past 44 years, he was directly involved in or oversaw the enforced disappearance and extrajudicial executions of thousands of political dissidents in the 1980s, the unlawful killing, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance and torture of thousands of protesters; and violent persecution of women and girls defying compulsory veiling, among other serious human rights violations.

“Ebrahim Raisi should have been criminally investigated, including for the crimes against humanity of murder, enforced disappearance and torture, while he was alive. His death must not rob his victims and their families of their right to truth and to see all others complicit in his crimes held to account,” said Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“For decades, perpetrators bearing criminal responsibility have enjoyed the systematic impunity that prevails in Iran. The international community must act now to establish pathways to accountability for victims of crimes under international law and other serious human rights violations committed by Ebrahim Raisi and other Iranian officials.”

The international community must act now to establish pathways to accountability for victims of crimes under international law and other serious human rights violations committed by Ebrahim Raisi and other Iranian officials.

Diana Eltahawy, Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa

Involvement in the 1988 prisoner massacres

In 1988, Ebrahim Raisi was a member of the “death commission” which carried out the ongoing enforced disappearance and extrajudicial executions of several thousand political dissidents in Evin prison in Tehran and Gohardasht prison in Alborz province between late July and early September 1988. Since then, survivors and victims’ families have been cruelly denied truth, justice and reparation for decades and faced persecution for seeking accountability.

In May 2018, Ebrahim Raisi publicly defended the mass killings describing the massacres as “one of the proud achievements of the [Islamic Republic] system”.

In a November 2018 report, Amnesty International called for Ebrahim Raisi to be criminally investigated for the ongoing crimes against humanity of enforced disappearance, persecution, torture and other inhumane acts, including by systematically concealing the fate of the victims and the whereabouts of their remains.

Former Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi giving a speech
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi delivers a speech

Involvement in deadly protest suppression

Over the decades when Ebrahim Raisi held multiple judicial positions, including as the Head of the Judiciary from 2019 to 2021, Iran’s judiciary was a key driver of human rights violations and crimes under international law, subjecting tens of thousands of people to arbitrary arrests and detentions, enforced disappearance, torture and other ill-treatment, grossly unfair trials, and punishments violating the prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment, such as flogging, amputation and stoning.

Under Ebrahim Raisi’s watch, the judiciary granted blanket impunity to government officials and security forces suspected of criminal responsibility for unlawfully killing hundreds of men, women and children and subjecting thousands of protesters to mass arbitrary arrests and at least hundreds of them toenforced disappearance, and torture or other ill-treatment during and in the aftermath of the nationwide protests of November 2019.

As Iran’s president and chair of the Supreme Council of National Security during the “Woman Life Freedom” uprising of September-December 2022, Ebrahim Raisi praised and oversaw the violent crackdown by security forces on the nationwide protests, leading to the unlawful killing of hundreds of protesters and bystanders and injuries to thousands of others, as well as the torture and other ill-treatment, including rape and other forms of sexual violence, of arrested protesters.  

Involvement in horrific rise in executions

Following Ebrahim Raisi’s rise to presidency in 2021, he and top officials under him called for increased use of the death penalty in a renewed “war on drugs”. Since then, executions rose sharply, culminating in the execution of at least 853 people in 2023, marking a 172% increase from 2021.

The horrific rise in executions is largely due to a return to a lethal anti-narcotics policy which, in 2023, saw the authorities carry out at least 481 drug-related executions, marking a 264% increase from 2021.

In December 2022, the government submitted a bill to parliament based on Ebrahim Raisi’s instructions, which will expand the use of the death penalty for drug-related offences if passed into law. On 8 January 2024, the Parliamentary Legal and Judicial Commission approved the general principles of the bill.

Under the watch of Ebrahim Raisi as both Head of the Judiciary and President, the Iranian authorities executed at least 2,462 individuals across Iran.

Involvement in violent assault on women’s rights

In 2022, Ebrhaim Raisi orchestrated stricter enforcement of compulsory veiling laws, culminating in the death in custody of Mahsa/Jina Amini in September, days after she was violently arrested by Iran’s “morality” police amid credible reports of torture and other ill- treatment, which led to the “Woman Life Freedom” uprising and subsequent deadly crackdown.

Since the uprising, the Iranian authorities, under the presidency of Ebrahim Raisi and the various executive bodies such as the Ministry of Interior which operate under him, have persecuted women and girls in a violent campaign of oppression to enforce Iran’s degrading and discriminatory compulsory veiling laws.

Since April 2024, Iranian authorities have further intensified their violent enforcement of compulsory veiling with the implementation of a new nationwide campaign called the “Noor (light) Plan”. In recent weeks, there has been a visible increase of security patrols in public spaces enforcing compulsory veiling through surveillance of women’s hair, bodies and attire.

Disturbing videos have emerged on social media showing security forces physically assaulting women and girls in public and arresting and detaining women and girls in a violent manner including by dragging them into police vans while screaming.

“Ebrahim Raisi’s legacy serves as a stark reminder of the crisis of impunity in Iran where those reasonably suspected of crimes under international law not only evade responsibility, but are rewarded with praise and high-ranking positions within the Islamic Republic’s machinery of repression, which without fundamental constitutional, legislative and administrative reforms, is bound to continue,” said Diana Eltahawy.

“States should initiate criminal investigations into Iranian officials reasonably suspected of crimes under international law under the principle of universal jurisdiction to ensure that survivors and victims’ families see perpetrators stand trial and be held to account for their crimes.”

Background

According to Iranian state media and officials, Ebrahim Raisi died on 19 May 2024 when his helicopter crashed in the Varzeghan region of East Azerbaijan province of Iran. All individuals on board the helicopter, including the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hossein Amirabdollahian, and the helicopter’s pilots and flight crew were killed.

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