Iran’s President replaces one human rights abuser with another

Justice for Iran- 11 August 2017: Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has appointed Alireza Avaee, who is suspected of committing crimes against humanity, as Minister of Justice in his new cabinet. Avaee is subject to an EU visa ban and asset freeze for his part in human rights violations following Iran’s disputed 2009 presidential election.

According to the Council of the EU, in his position as the President of the Tehran Judiciary Avaee was “responsible for human rights violations, arbitrary arrests, denial of prisoners’ rights and an increase in executions.”

A survivor of the 1988 massacre told Justice for Iran (JFI) that Avaee was the Revolutionary Prosecutor and a member of the notorious Death Commission responsible for the extrajudicial killing of tens of political prisoners in the Southwestern city of Dezful in the summer of that year.

The previous Minister of Justice in the Rouhani administration, Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi, was also a member of the Death Commission involved in the massacre of thousands of political prisoners in the capital province in 1988.

Several prominent international lawyers have described the 1988 massacre of political prisoners as a crime against humanity.

“In an apparent reaction to public outrage on the appointment of Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi, a notorious member of the Death Commission; in his second term Rouhani has picked another perpetrator who has committed the same crime though to a lesser extent,” said Shadi Sadr, the Executive Director of Justice for Iran.

Iran’s Majlis is set to deliberate Avaee’s appointment by Wednesday 16 August 2017. If he gets a parliamentary vote of confidence, Iran’s new Justice Minister will be unable to visit any European country as a consequence of human rights sanctions levied against him.

“It is very likely that the Islamic Republic will pull out all the stops to lift restrictive measures against Avaee and other perpetrators who have never been domestically held to account for the violations they have committed,” Sadr added.

Over the course of two months, in the summer of 1988, thousands of political prisoners were secretly executed and buried in unmarked or mass graves. In many cities, including Dezful, where Avaee was a judicial official, a three-member committee known as the Death Commission composed of the city Revolutionary Prosecutor, the Sharia Judge and a representative from the Ministry of Intelligence was in charge of this operation.

JFI’s research confirms that the remains of victims were disposed of in mass graves on the edges of cemeteries or derelict plots without the knowledge of families.

According to Mohammad Reza Ashough, a survivor of the 1988 Dezful massacre, “the authorities including Avaee transferred prisoners to a military base near the Dez dam, executed them by firing squad and most probably dumped the bodies in a hole there.” The military base remains inaccessible to the public.

Hundreds of protesters were detained, tortured and even murdered in prisons as part of a severe crackdown in the wake of protests against the contested 2009 election that saw Mahmoud Ahmadinejad elected as Iran’s president for a second term. Many well-known political figures were coerced to expiate their activities in televised show trials held by the Tehran Judiciary. Avaee, in his role as president of the Tehran Judiciary, played an important part in these incidents.