With the approval of Ebrahim Raisi’s candidacy by the Guardian Council, human rights activists have been vocal about the impact of his potential presidency on Iran and its people.
His candidacy “shows great contempt for human rights, the rights of the Iranian people, and the families of those killed in the 1980’s,” said Shadi Sadr, an international law expert.
In 1988, Raisi was part of the “Death Commission”, a four-man panel ordered the execution of 30,000 political prisoners. “With Raisi’s candidacy, the regime is sending a clear message that it does not care about crimes against humanity nor does it have any intention to investigate the crimes in 1988, and in fact will install those responsible for the massacre in the highest governmental posts in the country,” said Sadr. “Under international law, what happened to the victims of the 1988 massacre falls under ‘Enforced Disappearance’, because the locations of the crimes and places where the victims were buried were never disclosed.”
To date, there is no one who has been held accountable for this massacre, despite the knowledge of the event that the international community has. Investigations by various NGOs and committees have uncovered locations of mass graves and other evidence, but no formal charges have been issued by any international legal body.
In a statement announcing his candidacy, Raisi said he wanted to rectify the “wrong culture in the management of the country” as president. Raisi began his career in the Iranian judiciary in the early 1980’s and was a deputy prosecutor of Tehran when he served on the four-man panel in 1988.
“If someone commits such crimes and is provided immunity for political reasons in his own country, he will not be immune from justice according to today’s international laws,” said Sadr. “However, it is difficult to prosecute the 1988 crimes in international courts. It’s not impossible, but the first problem is that Iran has not signed significant human rights conventions that include mechanisms to prosecute human rights abusers, namely the UN Convention against Torture, and Iran is not a member of the International Court of Justice.”
She also noted that when the crimes took place, the international law was not progressed and there were no mechanisms to hold human rights abusers accountable like today. Unfortunately, laws are not retroactive, so crimes in the past have little chance of being prosecuted. And if Raisi becomes president, he will be immune from prosecution, due to diplomatic immunity.
“There will undoubtedly be a lot of political opposition and pressure against governments who invite him over to their countries,” said Sadr. “For someone with that kind of background, becoming president will certainly not be without costs.”