A call for justice
In 1988, the government of Iran massacred 30,000 political prisoners. The executions took place based on a fatwa by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini.
Three-member commissions known as a ‘Death Commission’ were formed across Iran sending political prisoners who refused to abandon their beliefs to execution.
Political prisoners affiliated to other groups were executed in a second wave about a month after the killings began.
The victims were buried in secret mass graves. The perpetrators continue to enjoy impunity and many still hold senior positions in the Iranian Judiciary or Government.
They include the current Justice Minister of Iran.
• More than 30,000 political prisoners were massacred in Iran in the summer of 1988.
• The massacre was carried out on the basis of a fatwa by Khomeini.
• The vast majority of the victims were activists of the opposition PMOI (MEK).
• A Death Committee approved all the death sentences.
• Alireza Avaei, a member of the Death Committee, is today Hassan Rouhani’s Justice Minister.
• The perpetrators of the 1988 massacre have never been brought to justice.
• On August 9, 2016, an audio tape was published for the first time of Khomeini’s former heir acknowledging that that massacre took place and had been ordered at the highest levels.
The massacre of political prisoners in 1988 is by no means the only crime against
humanity committed by these individuals and other officials of the Iranian regime.
Other crimes include, inter alia, systematic torture, ethnically- and religiouslymotivated
genocide, institutionalized discrimination against women and systematic
rape of women and girls in prisons, persecution on political and cultural grounds,
and assassination of hundreds of dissidents outside Iran.
In the face of such compelling evidence on one of the most gruesome massacres
since the Second World War, the United Nations and its organs have a historical and
moral duty to act. If these crimes are to be left unpunished, a terrible injustice will
have been perpetrated upon the victims and survivors of these crimes, along with
At the end of July 1988, Khomeini issued a fatwa ordering the massacre of political prisoners. Death Commissions were formed in more than 70 towns and cities. Until recently only the names of the members of the Death Commission in Tehran had been exposed, since Khomeini had directly appointed them.
The Death Commissions were comprised of a religious judge, a prosecutor, and a representative of the Intelligence Ministry. Individuals such as the deputy prosecutor and heads of prisons had a direct role in implementing Khomeini’s fatwa and cooperated with the Death Commissions. The religious judge and the prosecutor were appointed by the Supreme Judicial Council that was at the time headed by Abdul-Karim Mousavi Ardebili.
Among the 59 officials whose identities were established are key current office-holders within the regime. They include the current Supreme Leader, the Vice President of Iran for Legal Affairs, four members of the State Expediency Council, six members of the Assembly of Experts (the highest decision-making body of the regime, tasked with selecting the Supreme Leader’s successor), and at least 12 high-ranking Judiciary officials including the current Justice Minister, and top commanders of the Armed Forces. Additionally, Some of Iran’s largest financial and trade institutions are run and controlled by the perpetrators of the 1988 massacre.
of people in Evin and more in Gohardasht and other prisons in Tehran and in prisons
all over Iran were being executed.
The regime’s agents did not have the time to bury them one by one, so the only way was to bury them in mass graves. This method had been used occasionally in Tehran and other cities since 1981, but in 1988 it became a systematic procedure in the major cities.
A witness recalls: “The scale of the massacre was so vast that bodies of the executed were carried away on trucks to mass graves. I was able to see the truck from between metal window shades covered with a canvas sheet in order to hide the mess.”
Amnesty International recorded similar observations in its report: “One woman described to AI how she had dug up the corpse of an executed man with her bare hands as she searched for her husband’s body in Jadeh Khavaran cemetery in Tehran in August 1988 in a part of the cemetery colloquially known as Lanatabad,(the place of the damned), reserved for the bodies of executed political prisoners.