Home | English | Human Rights Documents | Aadel Collection | Ministers of Murder: Iran's new security cabinet

Ministers of Murder: Iran's new security cabinet

          
          H U MAN
          RIGHTS
          WATC H
          Ministers of Murder: Iran 's New Security Cabinet
          introduction 1
          Pour-Mohammadi and the i988 Prison Massacres 3
          Pour-Mohammadi and the 1998 Serial Murders of Dissident Intellectuals 8
          Mohseni Ezhei: From Inquisitor to Minister of Information ii
          Conclusion 12
          Appendix 14
          Introduction
          InJune 2005, Iranians elected Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who had campaigned on a
          platform of improving economic conditions, as their new president. Ahmadinejad
          assumed his new post in early August 2005 with the backing of those political factions in
          Iran who most vigorously opposed political and social reforms initiated by his
          predecessor, Mohammad Khatami. This support, coupled with positions Ahmadinejad
          took during the campaign, caused human rights defenders and activists in Iran to view
          his rise to power with great concern.
          These concerns grew when Abmadinejad introduced his cabinet to the iranian
          parliament for approval on August 14, 2005. Most of his nominees hail from security
          and intelligence backgrounds, adding to fears that the new government will intensify and
          expand repressive measures towards critics and dissidents.
          Particularly troubling are President Ahmadinej ad's choices for the powerful positions of
          Minister of Interior, Mustafa Pour-Mohammadi, and Minister of Information,
          Gholamhussein Mohseni Ezhei. In Iran the Ministry of Information is responsible for
          many intelligence functions. This briefing paper discusses credible allegations that both
          ministers were involved in extremely serious and systematic human rights violations over
          the past two decades.
        
          
          In 1988 Mustafa Pour-Mohammadi represented the Ministry of Information on a three-
          person committee that ordered the execution of thousands of political prisoners. These
          systematic killings constitute a crime against humanity under international human rights
          law. In his role as a deputy and designated acting minister of information in 1998, Pour-
          Mohammadi is also suspected of ordering the murders of several dissident writers and
          intellectuals by agents of the Ministry of Information. In addition, while Pour-
          Mohammadi headed the foreign intelligence section of the Ministry of Information,
          government agents carried out assassinations of numerous opposition figures abroad.
          Mustafa Pour-Mohammadi also served as prosecutor of the Revolutionary Court (1979-
          1986) and prosecutor of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Court in the western regions
          (1986).'
          Mohseni Ezhei, for his part, was a high ranking member of the Judiciary over the past
          six years and a leading figure in suppressing press freedoms. He was representative of
          the Judiciary in the Ministry of Information (1986-1988 and 1991-1994), head of the
          prosecutor's office in charge of economic affairs (1989-1990), prosecutor of the Special
          Court for the Clergy (1995-1996), prosecutor-general of the Special Court for the Clergy
          (1996-present), and head of the Judicial Complex for Government Employees (1996-
          2002) 2
          As prosecutor-general of the Special Court for the Clergy, Gholamhussein Mohseni
          Ezhei led the prosecution of several reformist clerics. In addition, he presided over the
          politically-motivated trial of former Tehran mayor Gholamhussein Karbaschi, who had
          played a pivotal role in campaigning for Khatami's election to presidency. Mohseni
          Ezhei is also suspected of ordering the murder of Pirouz Davani, an Iranian dissident
          and activist whom agents of the Ministry of Information allegedly kidnapped and killed
          in 1998.
          As Ahmadinej ad's new government embarks on solidifying its position, it is imperative
          to highlight the abusive records of these two cabinet ministers. Since taking power, the
          new government has reaffirmed its intent to continue a broad crackdown against
          dissident writers and activists. During the past two months, the Ministry of Information
          has summoned and interrogated at least ten journalists and newspaper editors, warning
          them not to criticize the new government. 3 Agents of the Judiciary and the Ministry of
          1 “Biographies of proposed ministers”, Iranian Students News Agency, August 14, 2005.
          http://www.isna.ir/Main/NewsView.aspx ' ?ID=News-568867
          2 Ibid.
          “Black month for Iran's journalists,” Reporters without Borders, November 23, 2005.
          http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=1 5678
          2
        
          
          Information detained Abdolfattah Soltani, a co-founder of the independent Center for
          Defense of Human Rights, on July 30 and have held him without charge, mostly in
          solitary confinement, since then. In interviews with Human Rights Watch, many activists
          and journalists expressed fear that they will be at risk even for their lives, given the
          documented history of political killings at the hands of government forces, and in which
          Pour-Mohammadi and Mohseni Ejehi allegedly played a significant role. 4
          Since taking over as Minister of Interior in August, Pour-Mohammadi has appointed a
          large number of security and intelligence officials to powerful posts. He appointed thirty
          new provincial governors, of whom eighteen are former commanders of the
          Revolutionary Guards. The Revolutionary Guards, the most powerful military force in
          Iran, have been associated with numerous serious and systematic human rights abuses,
          including secret prisons and illegal detentions. Pour-Mohammadi's top deputy and
          designated acting minister, Mohammad Bagher Zolghadr, was the acting commander-in-
          chief of the Revolutionary Guards until his appointment to the Ministry of Interior on
          November 25.
          Pour-Mohammadi and the 1988 Prison Massacres
          In 1988, the Iranian government summarily and extrajudicially executed thousands of
          political prisoners held in Iranian jails. The government has never acknowledged these
          executions, or provided any information as to how many prisoners were killed. The
          majority of those executed were serving prison sentences for their political activities after
          unfair trials in revolutionary courts. Those who had been sentenced, however, had not
          been sentenced to death. The deliberate and systematic manner in which these
          extrajudicial executions took place constitutes a crime against humanity under
          international law.
          On July 18, 1988, Iran accepted the United Nations Security Council Resolution 598,
          calling for a cease-fire in the eight-year war between Iran and Iraq. On July 24, the
          largest Iranian armed opposition group, the Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO or
          MEK), based in Iraq since 1986, launched an incursion into Iran in an attempt to topple
          the government. Although this offensive was easily repelled by Iranian forces, it
          For this report Human Rights Watch interviewed twelve Iranian journalists, activists, and former government
          officials both inside and outside of Iran. All of them asked to remain anonymous out of concerns for their safety.
          “The Interior Minister appoints Commander Zolghadr to the post of Deputy Minister,” Iranian Students News
          Agency, November 25, 2005.
          3
        
          
          provided a pretext for the authorities to physically eliminate many political opponents
          then in prison, including many I'vIKO members captured and sentenced years earlier.
          In the absence of any official acknowledgement of the 1988 prison massacre, the most
          credible account of these events comes from the memoirs of Ayatollah Hussein Ali
          Montazeri, who was at the time one of the highest ranking government officials in Iran
          and the designated successor of Ayatollah Khomeini, then the Supreme Leader.
          According to Ayatollah Montazeri, the government formed a three-person committee to
          oversee the purge in each prison. 6 The authorities told these committees to interview all
          political prisoners and to order the execution of those deemed “unrepentant.” These
          committees became known as “Death Committees” [ Hejia'tMarg]. Each comprised a
          prosecutor, a judge, and a representative of the Ministry of Information. Mustafa Pour-
          Mohammadi represented the Ministry of Information on the committee at Tehran's
          notorious Evin Prison. In a letter of protest addressed to Ayatollah Khomeini, dated
          August 4, 1988, Ayatollah Montazeri wrote: “The principal role [ in determining which
          prisoners to execute] is played by the representative of the Ministry of Information
          everywhere and others are effectively under his direct influence.” 7
          Ayatollah Montazeri recounts the unfolding events that led to the massacre of prisoners:
          A letter was produced on behalf of the Imam [ Khomeini] stating that
          based on the discretion of a panel composed of a prosecutor, a judge,
          and a representative of the Ministry of Information, imprisoned
          members of the hypocrites [ monafeghin, a term used by the government
          to refer to the Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization] who are still believers
          in their cause should be executed. Decisions were to be reached based
          on the majority vote. Thus if two out of the three members reached a
          decision that a prisoner is still a believer in his cause, even though the
          prisoner may have already been sentenced to two or five years in prison,
          he would be executed. 8
          Ayatollah Montazeri further details the arbitrary and summary character of this process:
          6 Ayatollah Montazeri, Khaterat, Vol. 1, p. 623, http://www.amontazeri.com, last accessed September 8, 2005.
          Translated by Human Rights Watch.
          Ibid., p. 633.
          Ibid., p. 623.
          4
        
          
          Visits to prisoners were suspended for a period of time and, according
          to people responsible for carrying out these orders, approximately two
          thousand and eight hundred or three thousand and eight hundred — I
          can not recall exactly — women and men were executed, relying on the
          authority of [ Ayatollah Khomeini's] letter. Even people who practiced
          religious rituals of prayer and fasting were asked to repent, and they
          would be offended and refUse. Then [ the committeej would conclude
          that the prisoner is still a believer in his cause and ordered their
          executions N
          In his August 4, 1988 letter to Ayatollah Khomeini, Ayatollah Montazeri gives an
          example of the process of questioning prisoners and determining their fates, writing:
          Three days ago a religious judge from one of the provinces — a man who
          is trustworthy — came to Qum and complained to me of the way your
          orders are being implemented. The judge told me: The Ministry of
          Information representative or the prosecutor — I don't recall which one
          — in order to determine if a prisoner is a believer in his cause asked the
          prisoner: “kre you willing to condemn the hypocrites frnonafeghin
          organization?” The prisoner answered positively. Then, the prisoner was
          asked: “Are you willing to give an interview?” The prisoner answered
          positively. He was asked: “Are you willing to go to the war front and
          fight the Iraqis?” He answered yes. Subsequently, the prisoner was
          asked: “Are you willing to walk over a mine field?” The prisoner
          answered, “Not everyone is willing to walk over a mine field.” Following
          this exchange, it was determined that the prisoner is still a believer in his
          cause. The judge said that he insisted on reaching a decision by
          consensus and not by majority vote, but his request was not accepted.'°
          Ayatollah Montazeri identified Mustafa Pour-Mohammadi as the representative of the
          Ministry of Information in charge of questioning prisoners in Evin Prison and saw him
          as being a central figure in the mass executions of prisoners in Tehran. He recounts a
          meeting with Pour-Mohammadi and the two other members of the Evin Prison
          committee:
          Ibid., p.628.
          10 Ibid., pg 633.
          5
        
          
          After my second letter of protest [ to Ayatollah Khomeini], there was no
          change and [ the executions] continued. On August 15, 1988, I met with
          Mr. Nayeri, who was the religious judge in Evin, Mr. Eshraghi who was
          the prosecutor, and Mr. Pour-Mohammadi who was the representative
          of the Ministry of Information. I told them that they should stop the
          executions during the month of Moharram. Mr. Nayeri responded: CCWe
          have so far executed seven-hundred and fifty people in Tehran, and we
          have identified another two-hundred and fifty people. Allow us to get
          rid of them and then we'll listen to you..
          Montazeri provides a memorandum of protest addressed to Pour-Mohammadi and the
          other two members of the Evin Prison CCDeath Committee” that he wrote on August 15,
          1988. In this memorandum to Pour-Mohammadi, Montazeri wrote:
          Carrying out a massacre of prisoners and captives without due process
          or trail will certainly help our opponent's cause in the long term. It will
          also encourage them to carry on armed resistance. The international
          community will condemn our actions. 12
          With regard to the 1988 mass prison executions, Amnesty International reported in
          1990:
          The political executions took place in many prisons in all parts of Iran,
          often far from where the armed incursion took place. Most of the
          executions were of political prisoners, including an unknown number of
          prisoners of conscience, who had already served a number of years in
          prison. They could have played no part in the armed incursion, and they
          were in no position to take part in spying or terrorist activities. Many of
          the dead had been tried and sentenced to prison terms during the early
          1980s, many for non-violent offenses such as distributing newspapers
          and leaflets, taking part in demonstrations or collecting Rinds for
          prisoners' families. Many of the dead had been students in their teens or
          early twenties at the time of their arrest. The majority of those killed
          were supporters of the PMOI [ People's Moj ahedin Organization of Iran,
          another English-language name for the Mojahedin-e Khalq
          Ibid., p. 635. Moharram, the month when Imam Hussein, the third Imam of the Shi'a, was killed in battle in
          680 CE, is one of the most revered months for the Shi'a.
          12 Ibid., p. 635.
          6
        
          
          Organization, or MKO]; but hundreds of members and supporters of
          other political groups, including various factions of the PFOI [ People's
          Fedayeen Organization of Iran], the Tudeh [ Communist] Party, the
          KDPI [ Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran], Rah-e Kargar [ Workers
          Party] and others, were also among the execution victims. 13
          Ayatollah Montazeri, citing officials in charge of carrying out the executions, puts the
          number of executed prisoners between 2,800 and 3,800, but he acknowledges that his
          recollection is not exact. Iranian activists have published the names of 4,481 executed
          prisoners. 14 As long as the government rethses to announce a complete list of those
          executed or even to acknowledge that these executions took place, the extent of this
          massacre remains unknown.
          The families of executed prisoners have repeatedly written to the government officials
          asking for the number of executed prisoners and their place of burials. In January 2003,
          they also wrote to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights at the
          time, Mary Robinson, and the then-chairman of the Working Group on Arbitrary
          Detentions, Louis Joinet, seeking their help in determining the truth behind the mass
          executions. 15 According to the families of some of the executed prisoners, the bodies of
          many are buried in unmarked graves and mass graves in the hills of Tehran's Khavaran
          district. Families often congregate in Khavaran to remember their executed relatives. 16
          Families of some of the executed prisoners told Human Rights Watch that in September
          2005 the new government started to reconfigure the Khavaran site and that makeshift
          gravestones, put in place by the families, have been destroyed. They said that the
          government is preparing for a major overhaul of this area to destroy any evidence of
          burials.
          13 ”Iran: Violations of Human Rights 1987-1990,” Amnesty International, Index: MDE 13/2/90.
          14 The list of executed prisoners is available at http://www.asre-nou.net . Last accessed October 24, 2005.
          15 The texts of these three letters is available at http://www.bidaran.com/article.php3'?id_article=25 ,last
          accessed on October 24, 2005.
          16 Information on Khavaran is available at http://www.bidaran.com/rubrique.php3?id_rubrique=13 , last
          accessed on October, 24, 2005.
          7
        
          
          Pour-Mohammadi and the 1998 Serial Murders of Dissident
          Intellectuals
          Mustafa Pour-Mohammadi was the deputy minister of the Ministry of Information in
          1998, when agents of that ministry killed the following five prominent intellectuals and
          political activists:
          • Darioush and Parvaneh Forohar were killed on December 13 in their Tehran
          home.
          • Majid Sharif was “disappeared” on November 20; his body was found in a
          Tehran street on November 24.
          • Mohammad Mokhtari was “disappeared” on December 3; his body was found in
          a Tehran city morgue on December 9.
          • Jafar Pouyandeh, was “disappeared” on December 9; his body was found on
          December 13 in Shahr-e Ray, a suburb of Tehran.
          Darioush and Parvaneh Forohar were long-time political activists and had been leaders
          of the Mellat Party of Iran since 1951. Sharif Mokhtari, and Pouyandeh were well-
          known dissident journalists and writers.
          These killings are known in Iran as the “serial murders.” Under pressure from then-
          President Mohammad Khatami, on January 5, 1999, the Ministry of Information
          acknowledged that its agents had perpetrated the murders. Subsequently, the authorities
          arrested eighteen people and tried them in connection with the killings. On June 20,
          1999, the prosecutor of the Judicial Complex for the Armed Forces announced that the
          mastermind behind the serial killings was a high-ranking official of the Ministry of
          Information, Saeed Emami, and that Emami had committed suicide while in custody.
          Human Rights Watch interviewed several Iranian journalists and human rights defenders
          who alleged that the chain of command responsible for the serial murders involved
          other high ranking officials in the ministry. Akbar Ganji, a prominent investigative
          reporter, has written extensively on this issue. 17 With regard to these allegations, Nasser
          Ghavami, former head of the Parliament's Judicial Committee, said: “Unfortunately, the
          judicial process did not proceed along the lines of a credible investigation. Those
          responsible for ordering these murders were never brought to justice and charges were
          17 See Akbar Ganji, Tarik-khaneh Ashbah (The Darkroom of Ghosts) and All jenab Sorkhpoosh (The Red
          Eminence). Ganji was sentenced to six years in prison in April 2000 because of his writings. He remains
          imprisoned.
          8
        
          
          not filed against them.” 8 In November 2000, another parliamentarian, Davood
          Suleimani, complained that the masterminds and instigators behind the serial murders
          remain beyond the focus of the judicial investigations. He said, “In this [ judicial] case,
          the issue of those who ordered the crimes and the fbnctionaries who implemented them
          remains a mystery. This has not satisfied the public opinion. .. .those who ordered these
          murders as well as the agents [ responsible] must be put on trial.” 19
          The Article 90 Commission of the Parliament, named for the article in Iran's
          Constitution empowering the Parliament to investigate complaints against any of the
          three branches of government, launched its own investigation in August 2000, but was
          unable to complete it.20 As Hussein Ansari-Rad, the head of the commission, said, “Our
          investigations led to certain people whom we did not have the power to deal with. That's
          why the investigations stopped.” 2 ' He fUrther said, “There is much credible and reliable
          evidence pointing to involvement and participation of others.” 22
          A source with first-hand knowledge of the Article 90 Committee's investigation told
          Human Rights Watch: “The investigators implicated Pour-Mohammadi and even an
          arrest warrant was about to be issued for him. But instead it was arranged that he leave
          his post in the Ministry of Information.” 23 Another authoritative source, who also asked
          to remain anonymous, confirmed to Human Rights Watch that the investigations indeed
          implicated Pour-Mohammadi. Human Rights Watch wrote to Mustafa Pour-
          Mohammadi on October 28, 2005 asking for his response to these allegations. As of
          December 8, 2005, Human Rights Watch did not receive any response to its inquiry.
          The murders of government opponents were not limited to those inside Iran. From
          1990 to 1999, Pour-Mohammadi was also the director of foreign intelligence in the
          Ministry of Information. During this period, dozens of opposition figures were
          18 “A brief history of the serial murders,” Iranian Students News Agency, November 20, 2004,
          www.isna.ir/Main/NewsView.aspx?ID=News-457431.
          19 Ibid.
          20 Article 90 of the Iranian Constitution states that: “Whoever has a complaint concerning the work of the
          Assembly or the executive power, or the judicial power can forward his complaint in writing to the Assembly.
          The Assembly must investigate his complaint and give a satisfactory reply. In cases where the complaint relates
          to the executive or the Judiciary, the Assembly must demand proper investigation in the matter and an
          adequate explanation from them, and announce the results within a reasonable time. In cases where the
          subject of the complaint is of public interest, the reply must be made public.”
          21 “A brief history of the serial murders,” Iranian Students News Agency, November 20, 2004,
          www.isna.ir/Main/NewsView.aspx'?ID=News-457431.
          22 Ibid.
          23 Human Rights Watch interview, September 12, 2005. This person asked to remain anonymous out of
          concerns for his safety.
          9
        
          
          assassinated abroad. In some of these cases — the assassination of Shahpur Bakhtiar, a
          former prime minister, and the killings of three Kurdish leaders in exile in Germany, the
          hand of the Iranian government is well established, while in others there are credible
          allegations of government involvement. 24
          Some members of parliament questioned Pour-Mohammadi's nomination as extreme
          and dangerous. During confirmation hearings, Imad Afrough, a conservative, opposed
          his nomination based on his prior performance in security and intelligence posts. “The
          interior minister must have a deep understanding of citizens' rights,” Afrough said. ccJf
          [ the minister] has a one-sided view of these rights, it will lead to crisis.” Referring to
          Pour-Mohammadi's role in suppressing urban uprisings in 1992, Afrough asked CCJ want
          to know how [ Pour-Mohammadi] would deal with [ regional] forces that oppose the
          central government? I have not forgotten how the urban uprisings in Shiraz, Mashad,
          and Mob arakeh were suppressed brutally and violently, shedding much blood.” 25 In his
          speech, Afrough said that Pour-Mohammadi
          hails from a place [ Ministry of Information] ... where they are used to
          closing their eyes and ears, or they are used to coercing others to close
          their eyes and ears. . .The nature of the Interior Ministry is such that the
          minister must be open to seeing and listening [ to others]... This
          gentleman comes from an institutional background where there hasn't
          been sufficient oversight. Have you forgotten the events that occurred
          in the Ministry of Information? How were the murders [ of intellectuals
          and writers] dealt with? 26
          During the same session of the parliament, Elias Naderan, another conservative MP,
          noted that Pour-Mohammadi's tenure as head of the foreign intelligence unit coincided
          with the assassination of numerous government opponents who were abroad. “With the
          appointment of an intelligence agent to head the interior ministry, the government's
          external challenges will be intensified. Imagine when the interior minister visits a country
          where there are [ judicial] proceedings against us, he can be arrested,” Naderan said. 27
          24 ”lran: ‘Mykonos' trial provides further evidence of Iranian policy of unlawful state killings,” Amnesty
          International, April 10, 1997, Index: MDE 13/01 5/1 997. “Iran: Amnesty International concerned about possible
          government involvement in deaths of Iranian nationals,” Amnesty International, February 28, 1996, Index: MDE
          13/007/1996.
          25 “Parliament discusses nomination of Interior Minister,” Iranian Labour News Agency, August 24, 2005,
          http://www.ilna.ir/shownews.asp?code=225685&codel =11.
          26 Ibid.
          27 “Price of opposing the most controversial proposed minister,” BBC Persian, August 24, 2005,
          www.bbc.co.uk/persian/iran/story/2005/08/050824_mf_afrough.shtml.
          10
        
          
          Mohseni Ezhei: From Inquisitor to Minister of Information
          Gholarnhussein Mohseni Ezhei, the new Minister of Information, has been a leading
          figure in prosecuting reformist clerics and politicians, as well as suppressing press
          freedoms, in his various capacities with the Judiciary. In January 1999, he signaled the
          Judiciary's offensive against the press that has since resulted in the closure of more than
          100 newspapers:
          The tone of Tus newspaper is instigating people to act against national
          security. If these crimes are proven in the courts, those responsible are
          guilty of active resistance [ mohareb] against the state and the law is clear
          what their punishment should be... As the head of the Judicial
          Complex, I declare that if the opposition newspapers do not heed the
          Supreme Leader's second warning, we are responsible to confront them
          with all our might and seriousness using public courts as well as
          revolutionary courts 28
          On July 6, 1999, the daily Salam published a government memorandum written by Saeed
          Emami, the intelligence agent who allegedly masterminded the serial murders. In this
          memorandum, Emami outlined plans for suppressing reformist publications. Mohseni
          Ezhei, as the prosecutor general of the Special Court for the Clergy (SCC), ordered
          Sa lam's closure the next day. He brought an indictment against Salam's publisher,
          Hojatoleslam Seyyid Mohammad Musavi-Khoeiniha, who was convicted a few weeks
          later by the SCC on charges of defaming a government official, publishing insulting
          language, and misinforming the public. 29
          As the prosecutor general of the SCC, Ezhei also supervised the prosecutions of leading
          reformist clerics, notably Abdullah Nun and Mohsen Kadivar. In March 1999, the SCC
          charged Kadivar, a respected Shi'a reformist scholar, with disturbing public opinion,
          based on a public speech in which he discussed the motives of those responsible for the
          serial murders. The court also charged him with “propaganda against the sacred system
          of the Islamic Republic” stemming from an interview in which Kadivar said that
          structures of shah's government remained intact. The court sentenced him to one-and-a-
          half years in prison on both charges. 3 ° In November 1999, the SCC convicted Abdullah
          28 Khordad Daily, January 16, 1999; as quoted by Akbar Ganji in Tarik-khaneh Ashbah.
          29 “Assault on independent press in Iran intensifies,” Human Rights Watch, July 28, 1999.
          30 Text of Mohsen Kadivar's Trial, Bahay-e Azadi (Tehran: Nashr-e Ney, 2000).
          11
        
          
          Nun, a former minister of interior and publisher of Khordad newspaper, on charges that
          his newspaper published articles that Ccdefamed the system” and spread lies and
          propaganda against the state. He was sentenced to five years in prison. 3 '
          Several journalists and activists have alleged that Mohseni Ezhei ordered the murder of
          Pirouz Davani, a dissident and political activist who was allegedly kidnapped and killed
          by the agents of the Ministry of Information in 1998. Davani's body has never been
          recovered. During his trial in November 2000, Akbar Ganji accused Mohseni Ezhei of
          ordering Davani's murder. 32 Abdullah Nun and the investigative journalist Emadin
          Baghi have made similar accusations against Mohseni Ezhei. 33 An authoritative Iranian
          source told Human Rights Watch that he had first-hand knowledge of the existence of a
          letter signed by Mohseni Ezhei ordering government agents to kill Davani. He asked to
          remain anonymous out of concerns for his safety.
          In June 1998, Mohseni Ezhei was the presiding judge in the trial of Tehran's former
          Mayor Gholamhussein Karbaschi. As mayor, Karbaschi had actively campaigned for the
          election of Mohammad Khatami as president in 1997. A number of Karbaschi's deputies
          were also arrested and Karbaschi said they had been tortured in order to obtain
          confessions that would incriminate him. 34 During his trial, Karbaschi repeatedly asked
          Mohseni Ejehi to investigate torture and ill-treatment of his co-defendants, but his
          requests were ignored. The court sentenced Karbaschi to three years in prison and
          banned him from public office for ten years. 35
          In 2004, Mohseni Ezhei also served on the Committee to Oversee the Press as the
          Judiciary's representative. In one shocking incident, Mohseni Ezhei physically attacked
          and bit a prominent reformist journalist, Issa Saharkhiz, during a meeting of the
          committee on May 23, 2004.36
          Conclusion
          Text of Abdullah Nun's Trial, Showkaran Eslab (Tehran: Tarh Now, 1999).
          32 “Call for an end to impunity for murderers and those behind serial killings of intellectuals and journalists,”
          Reporters without Borders, November 21, 2003. http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=8580.
          “Damage' to the intelligence system,” Roozonline Daily, August 15, 2005.
          http://roozonline.com/O2anticle/009392.shtml.
          Text of Gholamhussein Karbaschi's Trial, Mohakemeh va Defa', (Tehran: Farhang va Andisheh, 1998).
          Ibid.
          36 “Mohseni Ezehi bites Saharkhiz,” BBC Persian, May 24, 2004.
          www.bbc.co.uk/persian/iran/story/2O04/05/O4O524_mf_fight.shtml.
          12
        
          
          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 frill 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
          Nuremb erg 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
          History of the United Nations War Crimes Commission and the Development of the Laws of War(1 943), p.
          179, quoted in Rodney Dixon, ‘Crimes against humanity,” in Commentaiyon the Rome Statute of the
          International Criminal Court (0. 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 (0. 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.
          The Parliament has already rejected three candidates proposed by President Ahmadinejad for the post of
          Minister of Oil.
          13
        
          
          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.
          Appendix
          From the Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-Judicial,
          Arbitrary, and Summary Executions, recommended by the United Nation Economic and
          Social Council Resolution 1989/65 of 24 May 1989.
          Principle 9 outlines the manner in which such an investigation should be conducted:
          There shall be thorough, prompt and impartial investigation of all
          suspected cases of extra-legal, arbitrary and summary executions,
          including cases where complaints by relatives or other reliable reports
          suggest unnatural death in the above circumstances. Governments shall
          maintain investigative offices and procedures to undertake such
          inquiries. The purpose of the investigation shall be to determine the
          cause, manner and time of death, the person responsible, and any
          pattern or practice which may have brought about that death. It shall
          include an adequate autopsy, collection and analysis of all physical and
          documentary evidence and statements from witnesses. The investigation
          shall distinguish between natural death, accidental death, suicide and
          homicide.
          14
        
          
          Principle 11 states that
          In cases in which the established investigative procedures are inadequate
          because of lack of expertise or impartiality, because of the importance of
          the matter or because of the apparent existence of a pattern of abuse,
          and in cases where there are complaints from the family of the victim
          about these inadequacies or other substantial reasons, Governments
          shall pursue investigations through an independent commission of
          inquiry or similar procedure.
          Principle 19 states that:
          Without prejudice to principle 3 above, an order from a superior officer
          or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification for extra-legal,
          arbitrary or summary executions. Superiors, officers or other public
          officials may be held responsible for acts committed by officials under
          their authority if they had a reasonable opportunity to prevent such acts.
          In no circumstances, including a state of war, siege or other public
          emergency, shall blanket immunity from prosecution be granted to any
          person allegedly involved in extra-legal, arbitrary or summary
          executions 40
          Principle 8 provides for an intergovernmental and/or international dimension to such
          investigations and to efforts
          to prevent extra-judicial, arbitrary and summary executions through
          measures such as diplomatic intercession, improved access of
          complainants to intergovernmental and judicial bodies, and public
          denunciation. Intergovernmental mechanisms shall be used to
          investigate reports of any such executions and to take effective action
          against such practices.
          40 Principle 3 states that: “Governments shall prohibit orders from superior officers or public authorities
          authorizing or inciting other persons to carry out any such extra-legal, arbitrary or summary executions. All
          persons shall have the right and the duty to defy such orders. Training of law enforcement officials shall
          emphasize the above provisions.”
          15
        
  • Email to a friend Email to a friend
  • Print version Print version
  • Plain text Plain text

Tagged as:

Political Freedom, Political Killings