JVMI Co-founder Tahar Boumedra: Justice and Rule of Law Will Prevail in Iran

tahar boumedra 1988 massacre conference 2023

On July 3, the National Council of Resistance of Iran hosted an international conference at its headquarters in Auvers-sur-Oise to shed light on the political and legal aspects of a 35 years-long campaign that aims to hold the Iranian regime’s officials accountable for the massacre of political prisoners in the summer of 1988.

One of the speakers was Mr. Tahar Boumedra, a legal expert and former Human Rights Office Chief of the United Nations Mission in Iraq. Talking about a remarkable and challenging life experience that cost him his career at the UN, Mr. Boumedra explained how he learned the truth about the Mujahedin-e-Khalq Organization (MEK/PMOI) despite lots of negative intelligence he was been fed by the government of Iraq and his colleagues at the UN. He also recounted his journey and how he decided to co-found an organization called Justice for the Victims of the 1988 Massacre in Iran (JVMI) in London, together with other lawyers and human rights activists.

The full script of Mr. Tahar Boumedra’s speech follows:

Thank you. Madam Rajavi, President of the NCRI, brothers and sisters, friends, I would like to speak to you today on behalf of the families of the victims of the massacre of 1988 political prisoners. And as one of the founders of the association called JVMI, Justice for the Victims of the 1988 massacre in Iran.

I would like to just give you an idea of how I got to know the Ashrafis, the Mujahedin because I spent my career in Africa. And when I went to Iraq, I knew nothing about the Iranian Resistance movement, and I knew nothing about the Mujahedin.

And when I arrived to Iraq, I was given an induction course about my mission as Chief of the Human Rights Office of the United Nations in Iraq. It’s a mission undertaken under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, so that gave me the power to access all the places I want to visit. And during that induction, I was warned to be careful about those people living in Camp Ashraf. So, I had no doubt, and I could not put in doubt my colleagues, my UN colleagues’ advice that I have to be careful because I have to deal with a group of terrorists. That was sometime in February 2009.

And then I went on with my mission with all the required professionalism, objectivity, and independence, and I observed for myself and also within my mission I was an advisor to the government of Iraq on issues of human rights. So I listened to all parties, Iraqis, the Iranian embassy in Baghdad, and I visited on a weekly basis Camp Ashraf.

And I came to the conclusion based on my own personal observations that whatever comes to me through the Ashrafis turned out to be right. And anything that reaches me through particularly the Prime Minister’s Office, the Iraqi Prime Minister’s Office, and the Iranian embassy in Baghdad was a… they always try to denigrate these people and all the denigration always turned out to be wrong.

So not to go too far in telling you my story with Ashraf, but I was really put in a situation where I couldn’t continue my mission in Iraq because I was treated by the United Nations as if I carry the virus of cholera. I was isolated, I was put under pressure, life became so hard, and probably my life on the UN Mission was more difficult than those who were in Camp Ashraf. So I had to resign.

And when I left Iraq, I went back to England and I met a number of British lawyers and we decided to establish JVMI in order to give a voice to the families of the victims and to the survivors of the prosecution. So we established a plan of action and we put as a program for JVMI the documentation of the crimes perpetrated not only in 1988, but also the ongoing crimes that went on. And that’s the people living in Camp Ashraf.

You know that during the 1988 massacre, there was a blackout. The information didn’t come out straight away from Tehran. Mr. Massoud Rajavi did contact the United Nations and informed them about at the time about 800 victims already. And the Agence France-Presse, AFP, started talking about some movements, strange movements in the prisons, and night movements. So there was already an alert.

And the families of the victims started powering communications to the then special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran. The then special rapporteur and you all know in the 80s the human rights system within the United Nations was still embryonic, the mechanism we know today did not exist. And after a very shy report produced by the then-special rapporteur, the whole issue went into oblivion.

Nobody spoke about it for years. But at the beginning of 2000, Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri wrote his memoirs and revealed lots of things, and revealed how Khomeini has decided to get rid of the opposition by all means.

And one of the letters, probably you’ll find it in a document before you, one of the letters said to the son, from Khomeini to his son when his son asked about what to do about these prisoners, he replied, “Kill them all. Do not waste time on procedural matters. Just kill them.”

So here we are, the supreme leader Khomeini decided to openly call for a crime against humanity, a crime that could even amount to genocide. And it was not just for the Iranian opposition. You also remember the case of, [the person] who wrote this book about Rushdie, Salman Rushdie. For his book, Khomeini decided that he should be killed. And he gave the mandate to anyone, not necessarily the judicial or the police, anyone who gets hold of Rushdie, he should kill him.

So, we could see that it’s a regime, it’s a system that is there to commit serious crimes, crimes against humanity, and crimes that could be counted among the crimes of genocide.

The United Nations, after so many years of keeping quiet about what happened in Iran against the political prisoners, the JVMI decided to revive public awareness of what really happened. JVMI, based on the expertise of international lawyers, used very high standards for evidence and wrote a report naming over 70 leaders who participated in the implementation of Khomeini’s fatwa.

And we know, we are very aware that the list is very, very long of suspect perpetrators. But we also know that crimes against humanity and genocide, are very, very serious crimes. And therefore, we did not want to point out people that might turn out to be innocent.

So, we used very high UN standards for identifying the suspect perpetrators. And that was published in two books. The second one, the second book, is a book that identified the places, the geographical locations of mass graves. And we went around in Geneva and everywhere, knocking on every door of the United Nations and the diplomatic community. We gave them reports, we gave them the evidence, and we called for the establishment of an independent international commission for inquiring about these crimes.

We did not get a reply to our request. But the lawyers among us here, they know that international law develops progressively. And in fact, human rights is a field that develops progressively. So the 80s, that was focusing on the promotion, not the protection. In the 80s, the United Nations focused on developing and promoting values of human rights. Today, things have changed. We have mechanisms that do work towards protecting human rights.

And I take this opportunity to thank very much the late Asma Jahangir, the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation in Iran. She had the courage. She had the courage to bring back on the agenda of the United Nations issues of the massacre that took place in Iran in 1988. It’s thanks to her efforts, thanks to her courage, that the Human Rights Council was officially informed that there is a crime against humanity that took place against political prisoners in Iran.

And also, now that the issue was brought back to the agenda, her successors, the successors of Asma Jahangir, developed even further the situation. And also I take this opportunity to thank very, very much the actual special rapporteur of the United Nations on the Situation of Human Rights, Javaid Rehman.

Javaid Rehman has produced so far a number of reports, but he also worked together with the other UN human rights groups, thematic groups, and they all came together to call for the establishment of an international commission for inquiry into the massacre of political prisoners in Iran. That’s a very important breakthrough. But the real breakthrough came through a court, a judicial system.

The real breakthrough was that of the Stockholm District Court which convicted Hamid Noury of crimes against humanity. This is the first time ever a court of law prosecutes and convicts and sentences a person charged with crimes against humanity.

So here we are again. We could see the developments, very encouraging developments. JVMI went into studying over 104 legal systems of individual states, searching for avenues to continue mobilizing the international community to stop the issue of impunity and to encourage the legal system to uphold the rule of law.

Now, I’m glad to say that JVMI is not going to stop there. JVMI considers the case of Hamid Noury as the beginning, but a lot will be coming and justice and the rule of law will prevail.

Thank you very much.

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