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Iran/Sweden: life sentence for 1988 prison massacres is 'step toward justice'

Former official Hamid Nouri tried according to principle of universal jurisdiction

Iran has reacted angrily calling trial a ‘plot’ concocted by ‘terrorists’ 

‘Those responsible for crimes against humanity in Iran will not escape justice’ - Diana Eltahawy

Amnesty International has called a life sentence handed down against the former Iranian official Hamid Nouri by a court in Sweden today over crimes related to Iran’s infamous 1988 prison massacres an “unprecedented step towards justice”.

The trial was carried out under the principle of universal judication, with Stockholm’s District Court passing the sentence earlier today. 

Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director, said:

“Hamid Nouri’s conviction and sentence today in Sweden for crimes related to Iran’s 1988 prison massacres is an unprecedented step towards justice for crimes committed in Iran and sends an unequivocal, and long overdue, message to the Iranian authorities that those responsible for crimes against humanity in Iran will not escape justice.

“For more than three decades, survivors and relatives of thousands of political dissidents extrajudicially killed and forcibly disappeared in Iran’s 1988 prison massacres, have struggled for truth and justice. With this first ever ruling against an Iranian official, albeit in a European court, they have finally witnessed an Iranian official held to account for these crimes. This must be followed by all states exercising universal jurisdiction to criminally investigate all other former and current officials in Iran against whom there is evidence of involvement in past and ongoing crimes against humanity, including Ebrahim Raisi, the country’s president.

“This critical ruling must serve as a wake-up call to the international community to tackle the crisis of impunity that prevails in Iran. 

“To address this, members of the UN Human Rights Council must urgently establish an international investigative and accountability mechanism into the most serious crimes committed in the country, including the thousands of cases of enforced disappearances which remain unresolved more than 30 years after the 1988 prison massacres.”

Thousands secretly executed

Consistent with a longstanding pattern of official denial and distortion, the Iranian authorities have reacted to Hamid Nouri’s trial by describing it as a “plot” concocted by “terrorists” who relied on “fake documentation and witnesses”.

In a report in 2018 - Iran: Blood-soaked secrets: Why Iran’s 1988 prison massacres are ongoing crimes against humanity - Amnesty concluded that in addition to committing the crime against humanity of murder in 1988 by extrajudicially executing thousands of political dissidents in secret, the Iranian authorities are committing the ongoing crimes against humanity of enforced disappearance, persecution, torture and other inhumane acts, including by systematically concealing the fate of the victims and the whereabouts of their remains.

In 2021, the UN Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances called for an international investigation into enforced disappearances arising from the prison massacres.


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