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Aban Tribunal’s Core Message: End Tehran’s Impunity

By Amir Taghati, Originally published in NCR-Iran.org, 17th November 2021

A group of human rights advocates held a People’s Tribunal, “Iran Atrocities Tribunal,” in London. This tribunal, also known as the “Aban Tribunal,” was held to investigate “crimes against humanity” committed by the Iranian regime during its brutal crackdown on November 2019 protests. 

Aban Tribunal featured was attended by families of Iran protest victims, detainees, and several human rights advocates. 

Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), extended her to “appreciations to The Iran Atrocities, Aban Tribunal, a popular and international mechanism, playing a noteworthy and effective role in detailed documentation of the crimes against humanity committed in November 2019 in Iran.”

Testimonies at Aban Tribunal 

Aban Tribunal featured very shocking testimonies of families of victims and individuals arrested during and after protests. 

“They shot my son while he was standing near a wall,” said witness number 18 in a video call from Iran. “I’m here to defend my slain brother. I cover my face because we are under heavy pressure. They threaten to kill us. Therefore, I cannot show my face,” said the sister of one of the victims. “I don’t know why they killed my brother. After a year and a half, they told us my brother was killed by Basij militia, and we shouldn’t follow up on the issue anymore. My brother was shot in the abdomen. He died of excessive blood loss.” “When he was shot, they prevented people from taking him to hospital. He suffered for an hour before dying,” she added. 

“I saw one of the injured protesters at the hospital,” said witness number 109 from Iran. “He was shot in the head. He underwent surgery on his skull, and a quarter of his brain was removed. Regime security officers were present at the hospital and were investigating about him.”  

“The interrogator told me I’m the judge. I decide your fate,” said an Iranian woman who is now outside of Iran. “I was taken to a room. The female prison guard told me: ‘give me your clothes.’ As I gave her my cloth, then five men entered the room. They were covering their faces. I heard my interrogator’s voice. They started groping me. He said this is your punishment for not accepting to confess on TV,” she said, adding that they sexually abused her. “What was my crime?” she said while running into tears. Sexually harassing women in prison has been the misogynous regime’s method to break women.  

The witnesses also highlighted the extensiveness and depth of protests during November 2019. People stormed the regime’s centers of repression and plundering. According to the witnesses, regime change was people’s demand.  

In a nutshell, the November 2019 uprising portrayed an explosive society that has been yearning for change in the past four decades.  

It is worth noting that Amnesty International had documented tortures in the Iranian prisons against detained protesters. This report, called “Iran: Trampling Humanity,” shed light on the regime’s actions and concluded that they had committed further widespread patterns of serious human rights violations.  

Tehran’s Reaction 

The Iranian regime also showed a reaction to Aban Tribunal in London. According to the tribunal organizers, an unidentified European source has told them that Iran’s deputy foreign minister, Ali Bagheri-Kani, had threatened British officials in their meeting on Thursday. “He had threatened if the [British authorities] do not stop Aban Tribunal, he would immediately halt part of his nuclear negotiations.” This was later denied by the United Kingdom.  

Hassan Norouzi, deputy chairman of the Judiciary and Legal Commission of the Iranian regime’s parliament, also reacted to the public tribunal in London.  

When asked by the reporter of the state-run website Dideban about the international tribunal in London and whether it wouldn’t be better if the trial would be held in Iran, Hassan Norouzi said: “What does it mean? What trial?” 

Dideban reporter explained: “A trial regarding the negligence that took place and those who were killed in November 1998.” 

Hassan Norouzi answered: “Who is going to be convicted in this trial? The killers or those killed?” 

Dideban reporter: “This definitely means that those who killed and the official’s negligence will be tried. Those who killed people.” 

Hassan Norouzi: “I was one of those who shot the people. We killed! Who is now going to try us? This guy came and burned down the bank, and we killed him. Who do you want to try?” 

Norouzi later blatantly claimed he had “joked,” following a series of public outrage.  

Two Trials in different locations both address Iran’s atrocities 

Aban Tribunal coincided with the ongoing trial of Hamid Noury in Albania. Hamid Noury, an Iranian former prison official, was arrested in Sweden in 2019 and is being tried for his role in the 1988 massacre of political prisoners. After 34 sessions of trial in Sweden, the trial location has been transferred to Albania, per prosecutors’ demands. This transfer happened since thousands of members of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) reside in Ashraf 3, Albania. Members of the MEK were the main target of the 1988 massacre, in which the regime executed over 30,000 political prisoners.   

Witnesses at Noury’s trial shared dreadful accounts of atrocities taking place in the Iranian prisons in the early 1980s. Witnesses explained how the so-called “Death Commissions” instantly condemned a prisoner to execution. They also referred to the victims’ bravery, who refused to succumb to the mullahs’ regime demands, much like the brave protesters in 2019.

It is worth noting that one of the four members of the “Death Commission” was Ebrahim Raisi, the regime’s current president. Raisi was the head of Iran’s Judiciary in 2019 and oversaw the systematic human rights violations in Iranian prisons against arrested protesters.  

The testimonies at both the Aban Tribunal and Noury’s trial portray the image of the genocidal regime ruling Iran. They also underline the fact that how criminals in Iran enjoy systematic impunity.  

Drewery Dyke, the Aban Tribunal’s judge, underlined that the regime’s current Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, the regime’s former president Hassan Rouhani, and Raisi, then-chief of Judiciary is responsible for the courts held for detained protesters. Instead of their role in systematic human rights violations, they have been holding top positions in the regime. 

When Ebrahim Raisi was selected as the regime’s president in June, Amnesty International’s Secretary General Agnès Callamard said: “That Ebrahim Raisi has risen to the presidency instead of being investigated for the crimes against humanity of murder, enforced disappearance and torture, is a grim reminder that impunity reigns supreme in Iran.”  

Hamid Noury’s trial and Aban tribunal should set a precedent for the European countries to address crimes against humanity. Holding the regime in Tehran accountable would not only end its decades-long impunity but would certainly limit the regime from committing human rights violations.  

The ongoing inaction by the western powers has attributed and increased the systematic impunity in Iran. Therefore, holding the regime accountable would seriously damage this impunity.  

As Amnesty International underlined in June 2021, “It is now more urgent than ever for member states of the UN Human Rights Council to take concrete steps to address the crisis of systematic impunity in Iran including by establishing an impartial mechanism to collect and analyse evidence of the most serious crimes under international law committed in Iran to facilitate fair and independent criminal proceedings.” 

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