Universal jurisdiction allows a state to claim criminal jurisdiction over an accused person regardless of where the alleged crime was committed and regardless of the accused’s nationality, country or residence.
Prosecutions under universal jurisdiction are always for the most serious crimes. I have now submitted a 111-page dossier to the Chief Constable, signed by five direct victims or relatives of victims who suffered torture, human rights abuse and, in many cases, extra-judicial execution, at the hands of or under the command of Raisi.
I will chair a press conference today in the Village Hotel, Glasgow, at which some of the plaintiffs and signatories to the formal complaint will outline their reason for seeking the prosecution of Raisi by Police Scotland, in advance of the Cop26 climate change summit in Glasgow, to which the Iranian president has been invited.
If he sets foot in Scotland, he should be arrested. I will be joined at the press conference by Hossein Abedini, representing the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) Foreign Affairs Committee, who are hosting the press conference, and Tahar Boumedra, former chief of the UN Human Rights Office in Iraq.
The plaintiffs, all of whom now have British-Iranian dual nationality, will outline some of the harrowing details of the alleged suffering they or their relatives or cellmates endured at the hands of Raisi.
Raisi is known as “The Butcher of Tehran” due to his active part in the massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners in Iran in 1988, a role he has publicly admitted and even boasted about.
Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Iran’s Supreme Leader at that time, issued a fatwa, ordering the execution of all supporters of the opposition People’s Mojahedin of Iran (PMOI). Special death commissions were created to implement the order. As a public prosecutor, Raisi played a key role in the death commissions.
Raisi is on the US sanctions list for serial human rights violations. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have both called for his indictment for human rights violations and crimes against humanity.
Agnès Callamard, the Secretary General of Amnesty International, has called for Raisi to be investigated for crimes against humanity and for his involvement in murder, enforced disappearance and torture.
In his report of 16 July to the UN General Assembly, on the situation of human rights in Iran, Professor Javaid Rehman raised concerns regarding the reported destruction of evidence of the extrajudicial executions that took place in 1988.
The UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances, in a report to the UN Human Rights Council on 4 August, called for an “international investigation” into the 1988 massacre, stating that “the working group reiterates the concerns expressed about the ongoing concealment of burial sites across the country. The working group recalls that an enforced disappearance continues until the fate and whereabouts of the individuals concerned are established.”
In a covering letter to Chief Constable Livingstone, the plaintiffs state that they, or their relatives or cellmates, were “subjected to the crime of torture and extra-judicial executions on a large scale”.
In their testimonies, they describe how in the summer of 1988, they were taken to Gohardasht Prison, where, in a three-minute hearing, they were confronted by Raisi, in his role as a public prosecutor, and asked if they continued to support the PMOI.
If they answered “yes”, they and hundreds of others were lined up in a corridor, sometimes for hours, then taken in groups into an execution chamber where they were forced to watch other prisoners being hanged, before being executed themselves. One survived to provide testimony because he had fainted at the sight of his fellow prisoners being hanged.
A similar prosecution under universal jurisdiction is currently underway in Sweden, where one of Raisi’s functionaries, Hamid Noury, has been charged with crimes against humanity for his involvement in the same massacre, where it is alleged he helped with the selection of prisoners and then attended and participated in their execution.
It is essential that Police Scotland seek the prosecution of Raisi. There must be no impunity for mass murderers like this man. Indeed, the news last week that the International Criminal Court in the Hague (ICC) has launched a full probe into Rodrigo Duterte, the president of the Philippines, for his involvement in crimes against humanity and murder, will send shockwaves to Tehran.
Duterte’s extra-judicial killings in his so-called “war on drugs” may now lead to his indictment, arrest and appearance at the ICC. Surely this must pave the way for a similar indictment against Raisi and I hope that Police Scotland will take the first steps.
The UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, has now issued a damning report on the grave human rights violations that have occurred in Iran in which he expresses his concern over impunity from past violations such as the 1988 massacre of political prisoners.
The UN Secretary-General has accused the Iranian regime of “destroying evidence of the execution of political dissidents at that time (1988) and the harassment and criminal prosecution of families of victims calling for truth and accountability”.
Today, I want to send the clearest possible message to Ebrahim Raisi. His crimes will not be forgotten or forgiven. His victims and their families demand justice. He will be held to account for crimes against humanity, murder, human rights violation and genocide.
Struan Stevenson, a former Conservative MEP for Scotland, is coordinator of the Campaign for Iran Change and chair of the In Search of Justice committee on the protection of political freedoms in Iran. He is an international lecturer on the Middle East and president of the European Iraqi Freedom Association.