Open Letter Calls for Accountability in Iran
In a recent open letter, over a hundred former world leaders are calling for accountability in Iran.
The open letter, sent to U.S. President Joe Biden, European Council President Charles Michel, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, states: “Since September 2022, the world has witnessed a sweeping popular uprising in Iran, demanding freedom, and democracy. Reports suggest that some 750 protesters have been killed and 30,000 arrested. While any change should come from the people of Iran, the international community has a responsibility to support their human rights.”
The letter continues: “We encourage you to stand in solidarity with the people of Iran in their desire for a secular and democratic republic where no individual, regardless of religion or birthright, has any privilege over others. Through their slogans, the Iranian people have made it clear that they reject all forms of dictatorship, be it that of the deposed Shah or the current theocratic regime, and thus reject any association with either.”
The open letter by former world leaders follows an effort in 2022 to pressure Tehran to halt the executions of pro-democracy protesters. The 2022 open letter, signed by over two hundred current and former UN officials, human rights experts, and Nobel laureates, called for immediate action to halt the execution of detained protesters in Iran. The letter highlighted the urgent need to support the pro-democracy movement and hold the leadership of Iran accountable for their crimes against humanity.
The letter expressed deep concern over the escalating violence perpetrated by authorities against protesters. “Since popular protests began in Iran following the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, the authorities have murdered as many as 700 protesters, including dozens of children, on the streets or in prison. As many as 30,000 protesters have been arrested, with dozens receiving the death sentence for ‘moharebeh’ (waging war on God) in fast-track sham trials without the right to due process.”
The executions of protesters by the government further intensified the call for urgent action. The letter highlighted the case of Mohsen Shekari, stating, “Mohsen Shekari was executed on 8 December, less than three weeks after he was convicted and sentenced to death for taking part in the protests.” Another case mentioned is that of Majidreza Rahnavard, who was publicly hanged in Mashhad in December. The letter described these executions as attempts by the authorities to intimidate Iranians and suppress the popular uprising against the clerical dictatorship.
The open letter drew attention to the long history of human rights violations in Iran and the lack of accountability. “Decades of apparent silence and inaction by the international community have helped fuel a culture of impunity in Iran.” The letter pointed out that tens of thousands of protesters and political prisoners have been extrajudicially executed since the 1980s. “As many as 30,000 political prisoners, mostly MEK members, were extra-legally executed or forcibly disappeared.”
While the letter acknowledged the fact-finding mission by the UN Human Rights Council, the letter stressed the need for urgent action. “While we welcome the fact-finding mission recently commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council in relation to the crackdown on the ongoing protests, we note that that mission has a more long-term agenda, whereas it is critical to take urgent action now to stop the unlawful use of the death penalty against protesters.”
The letter put forth specific recommendations for immediate action. It called for world leaders to identify and impose sanctions on the perpetrators of the crackdown. The letter also urged countries to consider imposing targeted economic sanctions, specifically, blacklisting the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and its affiliated entities that are leading the crackdown.
In addition, the letter requested that countries downgrade diplomatic ties with Iran. “Finally, we request that, where applicable, your nations downgrade diplomatic ties with the Islamic Republic of Iran, including by withdrawing your ambassadors and likewise expelling the representatives of what is in fact a murderous government.”
The letter concluded with the sincere hope that the world’s leading democratic nations will stand in solidarity with the Iranian people and take decisive action to prevent further human rights violations. “We urge you to hold the leadership of the Islamic Republic of Iran to account for committing crimes against humanity, for acts including the killing of children and the public hanging of protesters, and to use all internationally available means to bring them to justice.”
The signatories argued that by implementing these recommendations, world leaders can effectively support the pro-democracy movement in Iran and contribute to the restoration of human rights and justice. “Today, as brave young Iranians continue their defiant protests to end decades of tyranny, it is imperative that the world’s leading democratic nations act urgently to prevent the Iranian authorities in their attempts to quell the ongoing protests through the use of the death penalty in contravention of international law.”
Joint accountability mechanisms, targeted economic sanctions, and the downgrading of diplomatic ties with Iran are seen as critical steps in promoting accountability and discouraging further human rights abuses.
In the face of continued oppression and violence, the open letter served as a powerful call to world leaders to prioritize human rights, condemn the Iranian regime, and take immediate action to halt the execution of protesters.