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Condemned by Law: Assassination of Political Dissidents Abroad

Scrutiny should not, however, be limited to individuals connected to the aforementioned agencies. In 1996, the British Parliamentary Human Rights Group published a transcript of a tape recording of a telephone conversation between Mohammad Karim Nasser Saraf, a senior official in the Iranian Ministry of Post, Telegraph and Telephone, and an unnamed Iranian Foreign Ministry official.251 The two were discussing the assassination of Mohammad Hossein Naghdi in Rome, suggesting that many high ranking officials including Iran’s Italian ambassador may have been informed of the assassination plans prior to their implementation.252 Similarly, the French investigation and trial surrounding the murder of Bakhtiar revealed a complex network of secondary Iranian officials, such as Mohammad Gharazi, Amirolah Teimoury and Hossein Sheikh Attar, who were directly involved in the planning and commission of the former Prime Minister’s murder.253 Many of these individuals were identified as co-conspirators involved in providing logistical support for the foreign operations, including the facilitation of documentation allowing Iranian agents to enter and escape France.254

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.255 Evidence presented in IHRDC’s previous reports indicates that Fallahian’s involvement was far more pervasive than his current indictment record would indicate. During the trial of suspects alleged to have been involved in the assassination of Cyrus Elahi in Paris, investigators determined that Fallahian had personally met with Mojtaba Mashhady, who was later sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment on a charge of conspiracy to commit terrorist acts in connection with Dr. Elahi’s murder.256 According to testimony delivered under oath, Ali Fallahian was personally involved in ordering the killings of Iranian dissidents in Paris.257 Some of these operations were eventually traced to proxies and agents of the Ministry of Intelligence and prosecuted in European courts.258 Others, like the 1991 murder of Abdorrahman Boroumand, a prominent founder and member of the National Movement of the Iranian Resistance, were never prosecuted.259 Fallahian’s statements after the fact provide further proof that the mens rea requirements for criminal liability were satisfied. In an interview for Iranian television in 1992, Fallahian stated, “we have been able to strike a blow at many of these opposition groups outside or close to our boundaries ... The[y] suffered severe blows and their activities shrank.”260

While individual responsibility addresses criminal liability pursuant to a direct involvement in the preparatory or execution stages of a crime, command responsibility deals with indirect criminal liability based primarily on omission.261 Command responsibility assigns liability for the failure of a superior to take necessary and reasonable measures to prevent or punish subordinates who perpetrated crimes of which the superior had knowledge.262 As such, three elements must be proven before a person may incur superior responsibility: 1) the existence of a superiorsubordinate relationship between the accused and the perpetrator of the underlying offense; 2) the superior’s knowledge that the subordinate committed or was about to commit the crime; and 3) the failure of the superior to prevent the commission of the crime or punish the perpetrator.263

[251]NO SAFE HAVEN, supra note 25, at 48.
[252]Prosecutor v. Tadic para. 648, supra note 229.
[253]Many of these officials were actually tried and convicted in abstentia by a Paris court. NO SAFE HAVEN, supra note 25, at 39-47.
[254]The Swiss investigations surrounding the assassination of Kazem Rajavi also revealed the significant involvement of Iranian officials connected to the Foreign Ministry and diplomatic corps. Id. at 30-33.
[255]See NO SAFE HAVEN, supra note 25, at 11.
[256]Id. at 34-37.
[257]Id. at 38.
[258]See generally MURDER AT MYKONOS, supra note 35; NO SAFE HAVEN, supra note 25.
[259]See NO SAFE HAVEN, supra note 25, at 39-40; see also supra, n. 352, 357 and accompanying text.
[260]Id. at 11. In addition to incurring individual responsibility for ordering Dr. Elahi’s assassination, Fallahian may also be charged with attempting to instigate the murder of Shahpour Bakhtiar. According to Fariborz Karimi, a close associate of Dr. Bakhtiar, Iranian agents approached Karimi to try to convince him to kill Dr. Bakhtiar. Id. at 42. As a reward, they promised that if Karimi succeeded in killing Dr. Bakhtiar, he would receive a home in Tehran and $600,000. Id. When Karimi, acting on Dr. Bakhtiar’s instructions, failed to commit to the plan, he received two telephone calls from Fallahian urging him to carry out the murder. Id. at 42-43. This conduct was undoubtedly intended to contribute to the criminal conduct of the murderer. See generally id.
[261]Rome Statue art. 28, supra note 46; see also Application of Yamashita, 327 U.S. 1 (1946).
[262]See Application of Yamashita, 327 U.S. at 15.
[263]Rome Statute art. 28, supra note 46.

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Political Killings, Assassinations, Political Freedom