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Rights defender calls attention to thousands of disappearances in Iran

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The world is turning a blind eye to mass enforced disappearances in Iran, the London-based Amnesty International (AI) says in its latest statement.

Marking the International Day of the Disappeared, AI said on Wednesday, August 28, "The Iranian authorities' continued failure to disclose the fate and whereabouts of thousands of political dissidents who were forcibly disappeared and extrajudicially executed in secret during Iran's 1988 prison massacres has sparked a crisis that for decades has been largely overlooked by the international community."

The International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances on August 30 of each year is a day established to draw attention to the fate of individuals imprisoned at places and under poor conditions unknown to their relatives and/or legal representatives.

Thousands of deaths remain unregistered and across Iran there are thousands of missing bodies buried in unidentified mass graves, AI noted.

"For more than thirty years, the Iranian authorities have failed to officially acknowledge the existence of these mass graves and concealed their locations causing immeasurable suffering to families who are still seeking answers about their missing loved ones," the statement asserted.

Meanwhile, according to the Middle East and North Africa, Research and Advocacy Director at Amnesty International, the AI Philip Luther, "The families of those secretly killed in the 1988 prison massacres [in the Islamic Republic] are still living through a nightmare. They and many others in Iran are haunted by the thousands of missing bodies, which have cast a specter over the country's justice system to this day."

Warning against addressing the massacre as a foregone conclusion and a part of the past, Luther has insisted, "It is misguided to view the 1988 mass killings as historical events. The enforced disappearances are ongoing and, thirty years later, victims' families continue to be tormented by anguish and uncertainty over the fate of their loved ones."

Earlier in December 2018, AI's report "Blood-soaked secrets: Why Iran's 1988 prison massacres are ongoing crimes against humanity", concluded that due to the widespread and systematic nature of past and ongoing crimes – including the ongoing concealment of the fate and whereabouts of victims of the secret extrajudicial killings of 1988, Iranian authorities have committed crimes against humanity, including murder, enforced disappearance, persecution, torture and other inhumane acts."

The report also called for the UN to set up an independent investigation into the deaths to establish the truth, enable prosecutions of those suspected of responsibility and provide justice and reparations for the victims, including the families of the thousands who were killed.

The exact number of inmates executed in 1988 remains known. Nevertheless, in his memoirs, the late Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri has put the number between 2800 to 3800.

Montazeri, once the designated successor to Khomeini as Supreme Leader, had a falling-out with him in 1989 over state policies, including the mass extrajudicial execution of prisoners who were serving their terms.

Montazeri, who for the first time revealed that thousands of the inmates were executed while serving their sentences, also disclosed that a "death quartet" oversaw "cleansing" inmates.

The members of the "death quartet", all junior clerics, included the Islamic Republic's current head of the judiciary, mid-ranking clergy Ebrahim Raeesi (Raeisi), and former Minister of Justice, Mostafa Pourmohammadi.

In a audio clip widely circulated in 2016, Montazeri described the massacre as an "outright crime."

AI's Philip Luther echoed Montazeri's comment, reiterating, "Crimes against humanity are exactly what the term suggests: crimes so serious that they concern not only their victims, survivors and the state in question but also humanity as a whole."

Amnesty International had also earlier called for the UN to set up an independent investigation into the extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances to establish the truth, enable prosecutions of those suspected of responsibility and ensure that survivors and families of victims receive reparations.
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