Iran’s 1988 Massacre of the MEK: “Worst Crime Against Humanity Since WW2” – Geoffrey Robertson QC


The Iranian regime carried out the massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners in July 1988, based on a fatwa (religious decree) issued by the regime’s founder Ruhollah Khomeini. The only crime of the prisoners was their steadfastness on their political opinion. Most of them were previously tried and had received sentences by the regime’s Judiciary. Hence, this massacre, could be described as the worst crime against humanity since the World War2

The Iranian regime launched this massacre following its forced acceptance of a ceasefire with Iraq, since it was terrified of the possible social consequences and public uprising due to the extreme poverty and destruction brought about by the eight years of unnecessary war. Most of the victims were members and supporters of the Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI or MEK)These executions were carried out and controlled by committees dubbed as “Death Commissions.” 

Now, 32 years have elapsed, yet this crime has gone unpunished. Many of the regime’s current top officials were directly involved in this massacre, but they are today enjoying immunity, preventing the international community to hold them to account. These officials are the regime’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, who was at the time the mullahs’ president; Ebrahim Raisi, current head of the regime’s Judiciary, key member of the central “Death Commission;” and Alireza Avaei, the regime’s current Minister of Justice, then prosecutor in Khuzestan province.  

On the 28th anniversary of the 1988 massacre, Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), initiated a movement for justice for the victims of the 1988 massacre which has since then received international support. This movement played a significant role in foiling Khamenei’s scheme in the regime’s presidential elections in 2017 where he intended to engineer the election of Raisi. The campaign was so effective that the regime’s president, Hassan Rouhani, used it to attract more votes for himself. Opportunistically, he said Raisi did not have anything on his record except 38 years of executions and imprisonments. 

As the movement continued to gain more international support, the regime started a campaign which it called “a complex multi-faceted operation.” During this operation the regime recruited a mercenary to distort the objectives of the Call-for-Justice movement, and marginalize the MEK and their leadership, all the while the MEK’s destruction was indeed the main goal of the 1988 massacre.

Morgan Ortagus, the spokesperson of the United States State Department, in a video message on Twitter, said: “July 19th marks the anniversary of the start of Iran’s so-called death commissions on the orders of Ayatollah Khomeini. These commissions reportedly forcibly disappeared and extra judicially executed thousands of political dissident prisoners. The current head of the Iranian judiciary and current minister of justice have both been identified as former members of these death commissions. The Iranian judiciary is widely perceived to lack independence and fair trial guarantees. And the revolutionary courts are particularly egregious in ordering violations of human rights. All Iranian officials who commit human rights violations or abuses should be held accountable. The United States calls on the international community to conduct independent investigations and do provide accountability and justice for the victims of these horrendous violations of human rights, organized by the Iranian regime. 

The second day of the NCRI’s “Free Iran Global Summit” on July 19, 2020, was over the 1988 massacre. This event was attended by renowned human rights advocates. One of the speakers at this event was former United Nations judge and renowned human rights lawyer, Geoffrey Robertson QC. Mr. Robertson has studied the 1988 massacre for years and even published a book about it. 


The following is the full text of Mr. Geoffrey Robertson QC. speech during the NCRI’s conference:

Good evening, Madam Rajavi, 

I am privileged to join the commemoration with you of the thousands of martyrs of the prison massacre of 1988. Now, some years ago, I was asked to do an investigation of what actually happened because the world didn’t really know about it. I went through Europe by interviewed about 40 survivors of that dreadful period 32 years ago. And I was staggered and I produced a report. With this book, Mullahs Without Mercy the message that I was able to explain to the world outside Iran, the world that hadn’t been aware, that this was worst of all crime, this worst crime against humanity since the concentration camps of the Second World War. This is how I described in my report. After all that study, what happened 32 years ago. I said this, late in July 1988 as the war with Iraq was ending, in a truculent truce, prisons in Iran, suddenly went into lockdown, all family visits were canceled, televisions and radios switched off, the newspapers discontinued, prisoners were kept in their cell and disallowed exercise or could go to the hospital. The only permitted visitation was from a delegation, turbaned and bearded, which came in black government BMWs to outlying jails. A religious judge, a public prosecutor, and an intelligence chief before them were paraded briefly and individually almost every prisoner. And there were thousands of them who had been jailed for adherence to the Mojahedin-e-Khaleq Organization, the MEK and the delegation had one question to these young men and women, most of them had been detained actually since 1981, merely for taking part in street protests or possession of political reading material. And many of them were what is called “melikesh”, meaning they have served their sentence and were being wrongly in jail. Nonetheless, they were asked one question on which their lives depend on the answer. Those who indicated that they had a continuing affiliation with the MEK were blindfolded and ordered to join a line that led straight to the gallows. They were hung from cranes. For the time or in groups of six from ropes hanging from the front of the stage in an assembly or some were taken to army barracks at night, directed to make their wills and then shot by firing squad. Their bodies were doused with disinfectant, packed in refrigerated trucks and buried by night in mass graves. Months later, their families desperate for information about their children or their … would be handed a plastic bag with their few possessions, they’d be refused any information about the location of the graves. And ordered never to morn in the public. by mid-August 1988 thousands of prisoners had been killed in this manner by the state without trial, without appeal and utterly without mercy. And of course, it got worse, Ayatollah Montazeri, a true hero, tried to stop it, but he was outmaneuvered by those some of whom are alive and who must be held accountable…     

There wasn’t accountability because the U.N. was weak at that time… and failed then in its duty. We must hold these people accountable because many of them are still alive.  

Well, is there any hope of accountability now? People are tearing down statues of slave traders, and they will tear down the statues of the ayatollahs. They will rewrite the history of Iran with the truth, the truth of the bloodthirstiness, the truth of the barbarity which future generations of Iranians will want to erase is just as the German people were able to condemn and erase were Nazis and their horrors.   Britain and Canada and America, Australia, and the countries that have these targeted sanctions and laws should target the surviving masterminds of the 1988 barbarities.   

Name them, shame them and blame them, because, in that way, we can go on the offensive against the perpetrators of one of the worst since the war, one of the worst crimes against humanity.