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Condemned by Law: Assassination of Political Dissidents Abroad

1. Executive Summary

Since 1979, high-level officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran, particularly those associated with the Ministry of Intelligence and Revolutionary Guards, have been linked to the assassinations of at least 162 of the regime’s political opponents around the world. The regime has vigorously and systematically pursued its state-sponsored campaign of terror in contravention of a host of domestic and international laws promoting peace and security and protecting the most fundamental of human rights: the right to life.

  • Since 1979, the Islamic Republic of Iran has consistently ignored its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and its own Constitution by systematically eliminating political dissidents abroad. The regime’s campaign of assassinations violates the most fundamental guarantee under the Covenant: the right to life.
  • The regime’s extrajudicial killing of political dissidents abroad constitutes a violation of its ICCPR duties to provide due process pursuant to a “fair hearing.” Iran’s statesponsored campaign of foreign assassinations also amounts to a breach of the Covenant’s guarantee to investigate, punish or otherwise provide remedies to the aggrieved.
  • Individuals involved in the widespread or systematic campaign of assassinations directed at political dissidents abroad may have committed international crimes, including war crimes and crimes against humanity, pursuant to international treaty and customary law.
  • A person of particular interest is Hojjatoleslam Ali Fallahian, who served as the Minister of Intelligence from 1989 to 1997 and has already been implicated and indicted in connection with the assassinations of several dissidents abroad. Evidence indicates that Fallahian’s personal involvement and individual responsibility for the murders were far more pervasive than his current indictment record would indicate.
  • Given the central role of the Special Affairs Committee and the Ministry of Intelligence in the assassination of dissidents abroad, responsibility could also be imputed to many high ranking members of these two agencies. This is especially true of the permanent members of the Special Affairs Committee, which included the Supreme Leader, the President of the Republic, the Speaker of the Majlis, the Minister of Intelligence and the head of the Judiciary.

The Islamic Republic, and any individuals involved in the ordering, instigating, planning, aiding and abetting, or commission of these extrajudicial killings must be held to account for their actions. To the extent that the regime’s extrajudicial killings constituted serious violations of human rights law or international humanitarian law, it is incumbent upon all member states of the international community to prosecute the perpetrators of these crimes.

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Tagged as:

Political Killings, Assassinations, Political Freedom