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In a First, UN Report Implicates Ali Khamenei in Crimes Against Humanity

March 11, 2024
Faramarz Davar
7 min read
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and officials of the Islamic Republic have previously faced accusations of murder in cases such as the Mykonos restaurant assassinations in Germany and the bombing of a Jewish center in Argentina
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and officials of the Islamic Republic have previously faced accusations of murder in cases such as the Mykonos restaurant assassinations in Germany and the bombing of a Jewish center in Argentina

A United Nations fact-finding mission has held the Islamic Republic responsible for the "physical violence" leading to Mahsa Amini's death and said its forces committed crimes against humanity during the suppression of protests.

The UN report outlines criminal acts starting September 16, 2022. These offenses have a long history parallel to the emergence of the Islamic Republic, but they have not been officially documented as crimes against humanity until now.

Crimes against humanity encompass organized criminal behavior outside of armed conflicts and beyond the scope of war crimes, often targeting civilian populations during times of peace. 

Such acts include extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests and executions, torture, and the infliction of mental, physical, and sexual harm, all carried out in a deliberate and widespread manner.

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and officials of the Islamic Republic have previously faced accusations of murder in cases such as the 1992 Mykonos restaurant assassinations in Germany and the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center in Argentina. 

The gravity of the latest allegations has escalated beyond mere accusations of murder. These charges are not being levied by a government but by an international fact-finding body established by the United Nations Human Rights Council.

The Islamic Republic had previously endorsed the formation of similar fact-finding delegations concerning Israel within the same council. 

Therefore, the Iranian government dismissing these findings as illegal is deemed a political move lacking legal validity.

Crimes against humanity stand as one of the most significant and heinous international offenses, enabling the international prosecution of perpetrators due to their profound impact on human life and dignity.

These crimes deeply disturb people and cause global worry, leading to worldwide reactions. Examples of such crimes include the horrors in the Balkans after Yugoslavia's breakup, and the actions of leaders like Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, and Bashar al-Assad in Syria.

The UN fact-finding panel, in its report, has urged democratic governments committed to upholding the rule of law to prosecute those suspected of committing crimes against humanity in Iran under the principle of Universal Jurisdiction. 

Against the accused individuals, the UN panel has compiled evidence, which is ready to be presented in court.

Considering the past 35 years, it is likely that Khamenei would not leave Iran.

However, many other officials, including the Minister of Interior of the Islamic Republic and Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi, frequently attend the annual United Nations anti-drug meeting in Geneva.

Following are critical findings regarding the systematic suppression of protesters by the Islamic Republic's security forces. 

Crime Against Humanity   

For the first time in the history of the Islamic Republic, the independent, international fact-finding commission asserts in its report the confirmation of the international "crime against humanity."

The report details serious human rights violations, notably the killing of protesters by government agents, arbitrary detentions, torture, rape, and other forms of sexual violence prevalent in Iran's detention centers. 

Additionally, it highlights the harassment and persecution of people, forced disappearances, and other inhumane acts as part of a widespread and organized onslaught against a civilian group, including women, girls, and human rights advocates.

Systematic Attacks on Civilians

According to the findings of the independent international fact-finding commission, the Islamic Republic's structural and systematic actions in targeting peaceful civilian protesters post-September 2022 were deemed "widespread."

The panel characterizes the attack as "organized" due to its systematic nature, dismissing the likelihood of random occurrence. 

The commission asserts that crimes committed by government agents were not spontaneous but rather part of an orchestrated pattern of behavior. Such crimes were executed under orders and with the backing of high-ranking government officials, senior members of national institutions, and many perpetrators.

Friday, September 30: Darkest Day of Repression

The report reveals that statistics gathered by the commission up to September 2023, spanning a year since the start of the protests and six months before the report's publication, indicate that 551 protesters were killed by agents of the Islamic Republic.

According to the findings, the highest single-day death toll occurred on Friday, September 30, 2022, in Zahedan, with 104 fatalities. 

The violence unfolded following Friday prayers, perpetrated by agents of the Islamic Republic.

Sexual Assault in Detention Centers

The commission has unveiled disturbing incidents of the government using sexual assault within detention centers as a means to suppress protesters. 

Instances of rape with objects, electric shocks to genitalia, forced nudity, and other sexual abuses have been alarmingly common during arrests.

In a particularly egregious example cited in the report, a female protester detained in November 2022 in Kermanshah was subjected to rape by two security officers during a body search conducted in the presence of a chador-wearing female officer.

Additionally, the report exposes that authorities and agents of the Islamic Republic have employed coercive tactics, including the use of assault rifles and shotguns, to disperse protesters. 

The deliberate targeting of vital organs during protests has resulted in extensive and lifelong injuries for survivors, including individuals who have lost their eyes as a result of the government's deadly actions.

Khamenei Implicated in Crimes Against Humanity

The fact-finding panel's report has found that top officials of the Islamic Republic helped security forces and government-linked individuals brutally suppress protesters.

It says that government officials portrayed peaceful demonstrators as "terrorists" and "separatists," laying the groundwork for their killing, arrest, and torture.

The report marks the first instance where the name of the leader of the Islamic Republic, Ali Khamenei, has been included in United Nations-related documents as a perpetrator of crimes against humanity.

IRGC, Basij, Police Commanders, and Judicial Officials Among Suspects

Apart from Khamenei, the report implicates commanders and senior members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), senior Basij paramilitary force commanders, senior police force commanders, the country's attorney general, the Supreme Council of Cyberspace, the Supreme National Security Council, the head of the Judiciary, senior officials of the Revolutionary Court and criminal courts involved in issuing heavy sentences, including the execution of protesters. 

Additionally, prison heads, including those of detention centers operated by the Ministry of Intelligence, the IRGC, and the Ministry of Interior, are among the suspects accused of committing crimes against humanity.

Identification of Officials Suspected of Crimes Against Humanity 

The commission has verified the identities of individuals suspected of violating human rights or instigating agents to commit crimes against humanity. 

According to the report, extensive research has been conducted to ascertain the responsibility of senior officials and the chain of command within various institutions for the suppression of Iranian protesters. 

Information detailing the identities and responsibilities of these individuals, including superior and senior officials, has been compiled and organized into a confidential list for now.

International Prosecution Proposal for Officials 

Members of the international independent fact-finding panel have proposed that countries implementing the principle of Universal Jurisdiction pursue legal action against officials and agents of the Islamic Republic listed in the panel's report. 

The principle of Universal Jurisdiction is applied in most European countries to prosecute suspects of crimes that shock the human conscience, such as crimes against humanity.

The commission emphasized that due to the gravity of the crimes and the impossibility of prosecuting these individuals within the judiciary of the Islamic Republic—where the president, prosecutor, and other high-ranking officials are implicated in crimes against humanity, according to this report—suspects should be investigated and prosecuted. 

The commission said that any country's judiciary can take action in this regard, and the commission stands ready to provide the information and documents collected to the judicial authorities of such countries.

Investigation into Armita Geravand Case 

The UN panel has said that the Islamic Republic authorities and their arresting agents are responsible for Mahsa Amini's death.

The panel highlighted the Islamic Republic's treatment of Mahsa's family, journalists covering her death, who faced harassment, and the family's lawyer, citing violations of domestic and international laws.

This panel has emphasized that the violation of human rights by the Islamic Republic persists in various forms and announced an investigation into potentially unlawful deaths, including the suspicious death of Armita Geravand. 

Armita Geravand, the 16-year-old girl who fell into a coma on October 1 last year after being assaulted at a Tehran metro station for not wearing a headscarf, died on October 28. 

Reports indicated that Armita, who had boarded a metro train with two school friends and whose headscarf was draped over her shoulders, was pushed by a woman wearing a full Islamic chador, or head and body covering.

Panel Emphasizes Findings Have Consequences 

The commission's report underscores the significant impact of its findings regarding the violent suppression of protesters by the Islamic Republic after September 16, 2022. 

The commission describes its findings as carrying consequences. However, it also stresses that allowing more time will further strengthen existing documents and evidence, ensuring their effectiveness in legal proceedings against individuals suspected of committing crimes against humanity. 



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