Amnesty International calls for probe into Iran’s president-elect for alleged crimes against humanity

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The Iranian flag is seen in this June 10, 2021, file photo.

Amnesty International is urging the United Nations Human Rights Council to investigate Iranian President-elect Ebrahim Raisi for crimes against humanity in connection with his alleged participation in the 1988 extrajudicial killings of thousands of political prisoners and other violent crackdowns. 

Agnès Callamard, secretary-general of the international human rights advocacy organization, said in a statement shortly after news broke of Raisi’s overwhelming election win Saturday that the political victory was “a grim reminder that impunity reigns supreme in Iran.”

She went on to cite previous reports by Amnesty International alleging that Raisi was part of a so-called death commission that “forcibly disappeared and extrajudicially executed in secret thousands of political dissidents in Evin and Gohardasht prisons near Tehran in 1988.” 

The group has accused the Iranian government of continuing to conceal information surrounding the deaths of the prisoners, and said that Raisi, Iran’s judiciary chief, “has presided over a spiraling crackdown on human rights which has seen hundreds of peaceful dissidents, human rights defenders and members of persecuted minority groups arbitrarily detained.” 

Callamard went on to say that, under the authority of Raisi, “the judiciary has also granted blanket impunity to government officials and security forces responsible for unlawfully killing hundreds of men, women and children and subjecting thousands of protesters to mass arrests and at least hundreds to enforced disappearance, and torture and other ill-treatment during and in the aftermath of the nationwide protests of November 2019.” 

The human rights group head also echoed doubts raised by many about the integrity of Saturday’s national election, with several opposition groups and political analysts saying that the election was likely tightly controlled to ensure a win for Raisi, who maintains close ties with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. 

“Ebrahim Raisi’s rise to the presidency follows an electoral process that was conducted in a highly repressive environment and barred women, members of religious minorities and candidates with opposing views from running for office,” Callamard wrote Saturday. 

“We continue to call for Ebrahim Raisi to be investigated for his involvement in past and ongoing crimes under international law, including by states that exercise universal jurisdiction,” she added, while also calling on the Human Rights Council to “take concrete steps to address the crisis of systematic impunity in Iran including by establishing an impartial mechanism to collect and analyze evidence of the most serious crimes under international law committed in Iran to facilitate fair and independent criminal proceedings.”

Amnesty International has previously called for international bodies to investigate the 1988 killings, writing in a 2018 statement that Iranian authorities “have treated the killings as state secrets, tormenting the relatives by refusing to tell them how and why their loved ones were killed and where they are buried.” 

The U.S. sanctioned Raisi in 2019 over the alleged human rights abuses, making him the first person elected to the Iranian presidency after previously receiving penalties from the U.S. government. 

Analysts have said that Raisi’s record on human rights will likely complicate President Biden’s efforts to renegotiate a nuclear agreement with Iran.

Tags Amnesty International Amnesty International Ebrahim Raisi Executions of Iranian political prisoners Forced disappearance Human rights abuses Human rights in Iran Iran Iran nuclear agreement Iranian elections Joe Biden U.S. sanctions UN Human Rights Council

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