In July 1988, the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini, issued a fatwa (religious ruling), declaring all opponents of his rule to be guilty of waging war against God.
He further ordered the convening of tribunals — subsequently labeled “death commissions” — throughout Iran to re-try the thousands of political prisoners in detention at the time. The death commissions were composed of a sharia judge, a revolutionary prosecutor and an Intelligence Ministry representative.
In proceedings often lasting a few minutes, the hastily arranged commissions asked detainees if they belonged to an opposition political movement, the People’s Mojahedin of Iran (PMOI/MEK). Those who answered in the affirmative were immediately hung.
The account of one former guard from Evin Prison is chilling: "They would line up prisoners in a 14-by-five-meter hall in the central office building and then ask simply one question, 'What is your political affiliation?' Those who said the Mojahedin would be hanged from cranes in position in the car park behind the building."
Eight thousand people were hanged over just two weeks. An estimated 30,000 men, women and juveniles were summarily and mercilessly murdered from July to September 1988 — a period known as Iran’s “summer of blood.”
Many of the death commission members from 1988 are senior officials in the government of Iran today. Iran’s current president and darling of Western liberals, Hassan Rouhani, appointed former death commissioner Mostafa Pourmohammadi as minister of justice during his first term.
Another commissioner, Alireza Avayi, is Iran’s present Minister of Justice. 62 officials from the summer of blood currently occupy other positions of senior authority in Iran’s Ministry of Justice, Assembly of Experts, State Expediency Council and Supreme Court. It would appear that in Iran, killing tens of thousands of political prisoners is a ticket to the top.
If people can get away with murder, there’s no reason for them to stop. This is why Iran’s regime has never ceased to brutally suppress its own people. America and the world’s silence in the face of Iran’s crimes against humanity has produced a culture of impunity that encourages the killing to continue. Iran is a perennial global leader in per capita executions, with well over 3,000 individuals hanged since Rouhani came to power in 2013.
History has taught us that the only way to stop brutal leaders from using murder as a tool of repression is to investigate and hold them accountable for their crimes. The international community did this with Bosnia, Liberia, Rwanda and Cambodia, among others.
Unfortunately, rather than investigate Iran’s leaders, the West prefers to give them a pass and remove sanctions. The U.S. Congress courageously enacted the Magnitsky Act in 2012 to sanction Russian government officials for the brutal murder of a single individual: corruption whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky. By comparison, 30,000 Iranian voices are calling from the grave for justice.
This is what the United States can and should do: Congress should pass an Iranian “Magnitsky Act” that sanctions all individuals with ties to the summer of blood. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki HaleyNikki HaleyThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Dems attempt to tie government funding, Ida relief to debt limit Poll: Trump dominates 2024 Republican primary field Harris to hold fundraiser for McAuliffe ahead of Virginia governor's race MORE should insist on the appointment of a special rapporteur to investigate the summer of blood and report its findings back to the General Assembly’s Third Committee.
If President TrumpDonald TrumpTexas announces election audit in four counties after Trump demand Schumer sets Monday showdown on debt ceiling-government funding bill Pennsylvania AG sues to block GOP subpoenas in election probe MORE is sincere when he said on Oct. 13, “We stand in total solidarity with the Iranian regime’s longest-suffering victims: its own people," his administration should match words with deeds and hold the butchers ruling Iran accountable for their crimes. Only then will the United States be able to credibly claim that it cares about the Iranian people.
Ambassador (ret.) Marc Ginsberg was the U.S. ambassador to Morocco from 1994 to 1998 and senior advisor to the president for the Middle East. Ambassador (ret.) Adam Ereli was U.S. ambassador to Bahrain from 2007-2011 and State Department deputy spokesman.