Condemned by Law: Assassination of Political Dissidents Abroad
Under Article 2(3) of the ICCPR, all member states are obligated to take measures to ensure that individuals have “effective remedy” pursuant to any deprivation of rights under the Covenant.137 This remedy shall be provided for by “competent judicial, administrative or legislative authorities.”138 This right to a remedy implies that states are obligated to investigate and prosecute violations of the Covenant.139 In a series of cases, the U.N. Human Rights Committee concluded that Article 2(3) obligates government authorities to conduct investigations into alleged violations of the Covenant, including extrajudicial killings, executions and torture, and to bring to justice those responsible.140 The duty to investigate and prosecute violations of the right to life has likely gained customary status in international law.141 While Article 2 of the Covenant explicitly requires member states to investigate and prosecute fundamental violations of the Covenant, the Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-legal, Arbitrary, and Summary codify international standards which must be complied with if the Covenant’s “effective remedy” principle is to be taken seriously.142 These standards address substantive and procedural norms related to both the implementation of investigations and the contour of legal proceedings leading to the prosecution of alleged perpetrators. With respect to the conduct of appropriate legal proceedings aimed at prosecuting alleged perpetrators, the Principles mandate that all persons identified pursuant to the investigations as having taken part in the extrajudicial killings be “brought to justice.”143 “Fair and adequate compensation” must also be provided to the families of the victims “within a reasonable period of time.”144 To date, the regime has initiated no investigations into the assassination and murder of its enemies on foreign soil. Not only has the regime rejected its own responsibilities under international law, but it has actively sought to frustrate the ability of foreign governments to effectively investigate the assassination of Iranian dissidents on their soil.145 This is not surprising given mounting evidence suggesting the involvement of public officials connected to the Ministry of Intelligence, the Revolutionary Guard and other government agencies.146 Regardless, the regime’s failure to investigate and prosecute those responsible for these crimes, and to provide “effective remedy” to the victims of such crimes, constitutes a violation of the Covenant and customary norms of international law.
ICCPR art. 2(3)(a), supra note 10.
Id. art. 2(3)(b).
See, e.g., Dermit Barbato v. Uruguay, U.N. Human Rights Comm., Comm’n no. 84/1981, U.N. Doc. CCPR/C/OP/2 at 112 (1990); see Muteba v. Zaire, U.N. Human Rights Comm., Comm’n no. 124/1982, U.N. Doc. Supp. No. 40 (A/39/40) at 182 (1984); Bautista de Arellana v. Colombia, U.N. Human Rights Comm., Comm’n no. 563/1993, U.N. Doc. CCPR/C/55/D/563/1993 (1995).
Both the European Court of Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights have ruled that member states have a duty to provide effective remedies to victims of extrajudicial killings pursuant to regional human rights conventions, and that this redress inherently involves the duty to investigate, prosecute, punish and provide just compensation. See, e.g., Adali v. Turkey, app. no. 38187/97, Mar. 31, 2005; Myrna Mack Chang Case, Judgment of Nov. 25, 2003, Inter-Am. Ct. H.R., (Ser. C) No. 101 (2003).
See U.N. Econ. & Soc. Council [ECOSOC], Resolution 1989/65, May 24, 1989. See also Amnesty Int’l, Fourteen Point Program for the Prevention of Extrajudicial Killings (Fourteen Point Program), reproduced in AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL USA, Bolivia: Awaiting Justice: Torture, Extrajudicial Executions, and Legal Proceedings, Appendix IV, Sept. 1996, available at www.amnestyusa.org/document.php?lang=e&id=A589B0C1996080B9802569000069344D (last visited Oct. 31, 2008)
Fourteen Point Program principle 18, supra note 142 (“[t]he prohibition of extrajudicial executions and the essential safeguards for their prevention must not be suspended under any circumstances, including states of war or other public emergency”).
Id. principle 20.
See, e.g., MURDER AT MYKONOS, supra note 35, at 18-19; NO SAFE HAVEN, supra note 25, at 48-49 (documenting the evasive response of the Iranian government to allegations that elements within the regime were responsible for Mohammad Hossein Naghdi’s assassination); see also id. at 32 (discussing the Iranian government’s suit in Swiss court against a staff reporter who had written an article alleging that Iranian President Rafsanjani had ‘masterminded’ Kazem Rajavi’s assassination.).
For example, Mohammad Jafari Shahroudi and Mehdi Hadavi Moghaddam were involved in the assassination of Dr. Ghassemlou in Vienna, Austria. See NO SAFE HAVEN, supra note 25, at 25-29.