In December 2000, Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, a 79-year-old cleric who had been the designated successor to Khomeini for 10 years, published his memoirs. The book revealed shocking documents on the atrocities committed by the clerical regime, none as horrendous as the massacre of 30,000 political prisoners in 1988 on the orders of Khomeini.
Montazeri’s book was not the first document informing the world of this massacre. News of the carnage had already begun to trickle through the iron curtain of censorship imposed by the mullahs to ensure a complete blackout on their crime. By autumn 1988, many human rights organizations and NGOs were already voicing alarm over the mass executions in Iran and urging a full international inquiry.
Montazeri’s book has a unique legal and political value, however, in that he reveals, for the first time, some key documents on how the massacre began and was carried out. Most important among the documents is the text of Khomeini’s fatwa -- religious edict that in clergy-ruled Iran has the force of law -- ordering the massacre of all political prisoners. “Whoever at any stage continues to belong to the Monafeqin [Mojahedin] must be executed. Annihilate the enemies of Islam immediately,” Khomeini decreed.
What gives added weight to the revelations is that they are being made by a man who was, at the time of the executions, the officially ordained successor to Khomeini and the second highest authority in the land.
The documents and accounts in Montazeri’s memoirs complement and corroborate thousands of substantive reports and official complaints by eyewitnesses and families of the victims of the massacre. They prove beyond a shadow of doubt that the most senior officials of the clerical regime took part in the implementation of the policy of exterminating political prisoners in 1988.
Speaking on French television in February 1989, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, then-acting Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces and Majlis Speaker, said that “the number of political prisoners executed in the past few months was less than 1,000” (Iran Yearbook 89/90).
Then-President Ali Khamenei, now the regime’s Supreme Leader, told a meeting at Tehran University, “As regards mass executions... those in prison who had contacts with the Monafeqin, who mounted an armed incursion against the Islamic Republic, do you think we should have given these prisoners sweets for this?... They are condemned to death and we execute them. We do not joke with this.” (Tehran radio, December 5, 1988)
The newspaper Iran News wrote about Khomeini’s decree, “This decree was issued at a time when President Mohammad Khatami was the Director of Ideological and Cultural Affairs of the Armed Forces’ High Command.
He implemented the Imam’s decree in the most decisive manner.” (Iran News, April 10, 2000)
Another state-controlled daily, Ressalat, wrote the same day: “As the Director of Cultural Affairs of the Armed Forces High Command, Mr. Khatami vigorously supported the Imam’s decree.” (Ressalat, April 10, 2000)
Abdul Karim Moussavi Ardebili, Chief Justice at the time of the carnage, declared publicly, “They must all be executed... There is not going to be any more of this sentencing and appeals.” (Tehran radio, August 6, 1988)
The French daily Le Monde wrote in March 1989, “Imam Khomeini summoned the Revolutionary Prosecutor, Hojjat ol-Islam [Mohammad Moussavi] Khoeiniha, to instruct him that henceforth all of the Mojahedin, those in prisons or anywhere else, should be executed for waging war on God. The executions followed summary trials. The trial consisted of various means of pressuring the prisoners to repent, to change their ways and confess...
Cases of young Mojahedin who were executed included some who were jailed about eight years earlier, when 12 to 14 years old, for taking part in public crime against humanity demonstrations.” (Le Monde, March 1, 1989)
International tribunals must prosecute the principals and perpetrators
The massacre in Iran’s prisons in the second half of 1988 undoubtedly fits into the category of crime against humanity; a crime that is so serious as to mandate universal enforcement, jurisdiction and responsibility. The Iranian
Resistance has presented to the relevant international authorities the files on 22 senior leaders and officials of the Iranian regime who played the key role in the massacre. It has called on the United Nations Security Council to establish a tribunal to indict and prosecute these individuals on the basis of international law and legal precedents that range from the Nuremberg Tribunal at the end of the World War II to the international criminal tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, mandated by Security Council resolutions.
The individuals whose indictment by an international tribunal has been requested are listed in the following page.
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 religiously motivated 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 World War II, the United Nations and its agencies have a historic 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 their families. But more importantly, it would make a mockery of universal jurisdiction over such crimes.
It would raise the obvious question, for example, that would the perpetrators of crimes against humanity in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia have been brought to justice if their governments were exporting oil and offering lucrative business to the outside world?
The Iranian Resistance requests the active assistance and solidarity of all those who care for justice and human rights to bring about the establishment of a United Nations-mandated international tribunal for Iran.
Who is Hossein-Ali Montazeri?
The Memoirs of Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeti is a voluminous book published in December 2000 in Qom, 140 km south of Tehran, where Montazeri resides.
The book has been compiled by “a group of theological students of the Ayatollah” and personally endorsed by himself.
Translated excerpts of the book that deal with some of the most shocking examples of the clerical regime’s crimes against humanity appear in this book.
Montazeri was a long-time companion of Khomeini who studied and later taught theology in Qom for decades under the reign of the Shah and his father. In the 1960s, he supported Khomeini, who had been exiled to
Montazeri was imprisoned by the Shah’s secret police for several years in the ‘60s and ‘70s. By 1978, when the mass protest movement against the Shah manifested itself on the streets, Montazeri became a prominent figure among the clergy who were to take the helm of the state after the overthrow of the monarchy in February 1979.
Montazeri was carefully groomed by Khomeini to become his successor and officially ordained as the “designated successor to the Leader” by the Assembly of Experts.
But relations between Khomeini and Montazeri began to sour after 1981 and the split finally burst into the open after the leak in March 1989 of Montazeri’s letters to Khomeini, in which he had sharply criticized the ruler’s decree for the massacre of all political prisoners in Iran. Soon afterwards, Khomeini publicly rebuked Montazeri and removed him from his position. Montazeti’s status in the mullahs’ hierarchy and his access to the clerical state’s innermost secrets turn his revelation of some of the crimes against humanity by the mullahs’ regime into potent evidence that is mostly corroborated by thousands of eyewitness accounts and other substantiated reports.