By Stephanie Nebehay
GENEVA (Reuters) – The UN investigator on human rights in Iran has called for an independent investigation into allegations of state-ordered executions of thousands of political prisoners in 1988 and the role played by President-elect Ebrahim Raisi as deputy prosecutor of Tehran.
Javaid Rehman, in an interview with Reuters on Monday, said that over the years his office has gathered testimony and evidence. He was willing to share them if the United Nations Human Rights Council or another body establishes an impartial investigation.
He said he was concerned about reports that some “mass graves” are being destroyed as part of an ongoing cover-up.
“I think it is time and it is very important now that Mr. Raisi is the (-elected) president that we start investigating what happened in 1988 and the role of the people,” Rehman said from London, where he teaches Islamic law and law. international. .
An investigation is in Iran’s interest and could bring closure to families, he said, adding: “Otherwise, we will have serious concerns about this president and the role, the informed role, he has historically played in those executions.”
Raisi, a hard-line judge, is under US sanctions for a past that includes what the United States and activists say was his involvement as one of the four judges who oversaw the 1988 killings. Amnesty International has put the number of those executed at about 5,000 and said in a 2018 report that “the actual number could be higher.”
Raisi, when asked about the allegations that he was involved in the killings, told reporters: “If a judge, a prosecutor has defended the safety of the people, he should be commended … I am proud to have defended the rights of the people. humans in all positions. ” I’ve put up with it until now. “
Rehman said: “We have made communications to the Islamic Republic of Iran because we are concerned that there is again a policy to actually destroy the graves or that there may be some activity to destroy evidence of mass graves.”
“I will campaign for justice to be done,” he added.
Raisi succeeds Hassan Rouhani on August 3, having secured victory this month in an election marked by voter apathy over economic difficulties and political restrictions.
Rehman denounced what he called “deliberate and manipulative strategies adopted to exclude moderate candidates and ensure the success of a particular candidate.”
“There were arrests, journalists were prevented from asking specific questions about the background of the presidential candidate, Mr. Raisi, and there was intimidation towards any issue raised about his previous role and background.”
Iran has never acknowledged that mass executions were carried out under Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the revolutionary leader who died in 1989.
“The scale of executions that we hear implies that it was part of a policy that was being followed … It was not just one person,” Rehman said.
He said there was also “no proper investigation” into the killing of protesters in November 2019, the bloodiest political unrest since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
“Even according to conservative estimates we can say that more than 300 people were arbitrarily killed, extrajudicially, and no one has been held responsible or compensated,” he said.
“There is widespread and systemic impunity in the country for serious human rights violations, both historically in the past and in the present.”