Background Briefing

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The allegations raised in this briefing paper are extremely serious and the Iranian government should convene a thorough, impartial, and independent investigation into the conduct of these cabinet members. Because the allegations are credible, and involve serious crimes, President Ahmadinejad should relieve Mustafa Pour-Mohammadi and Mohseni Ezhei of their duties as Minister of Interior and Minister of Information, respectively, pending the outcome of such an investigation. The results of the investigation should be made public. If the charges are substantiated, the individuals in question should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, in judicial proceedings that meet international fair trial standards.

As one of the officials allegedly responsible for ordering the mass killings of political prisoners in 1988, Pour-Mohammadi is suspected of active participation in crimes against humanity. Crimes against humanity were first classified in the charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal and constitute crimes “which either by their magnitude and savagery or by their large number or by the fact that a similar pattern was applied…endangered the international community or shocked the conscience of mankind.”37 Recently, crimes against humanity have been incorporated into several international treaties and the statutes of international criminal tribunals, including the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.38

If President Ahmadinejad does not immediately relieve Pour-Mohammadi and Mohseni Ezehi of their present duties and order an independent investigation into their alleged responsibility for these serious crimes, the Parliament should conduct a vote of no confidence for these ministers and itself establish an independent commission to investigate the charges.39

Such an independent investigation should aim to identify those responsible and document their alleged roles. International human rights standards, in particular the U.N. Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-Judicial, Arbitrary, and Summary Executions (see appendix), provide guidance for conducting an independent investigation into suspected cases of extra-judicial, arbitrary, and summary executions, the most serious allegation leveled against Mustafa Pour-Mohammadi and Gholamhussein Mohseni Ezhei.  In accordance with these Principles, other governments should consider measures including diplomatic interventions and public denunciations, as well as the use of intergovernmental mechanisms, in order to bring about effective action against these practices.

Iran’s Judiciary has as a body been implicated in many of the abuses described in this briefing paper, and thereby has demonstrated that it is unable to conduct an impartial investigation into these matters. 

There is a serious crisis of impunity and accountability at the highest reaches of the Iranian government, a crisis that casts its shadow over the legitimacy and credibility of the new government, in the eyes of both the Iranian public and the international community. A serious independent inquiry to determine if these new ministers were among the perpetrators of these crimes and atrocities is absolutely essential in order to begin to address this crisis.

[37] History of the United Nations War Crimes Commission and the Development of the Laws of War (1943), p. 179, quoted in Rodney Dixon, “Crimes against humanity,” in Commentary on the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (O. Triffterer, ed.) (1999), p. 123.

[38] Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, 2187 U.N.T.S. 3, entered into force July 1, 2002. Also see Rodney Dixon, “Crimes against humanity,” in Commentary on the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (O. Triffterer, ed.) (1999), p. 122. This is the standard applied by Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Iran is not a state party to the Rome Statute and is therefore not bound by it, but the definition in Article 7 accords with the conception of crimes against humanity in customary international law.

[39] The Parliament has already rejected three candidates proposed by President Ahmadinejad for the post of Minister of Oil.

<<previous  |  index  |  next>>December 2005