Stop Destruction of Mass Graves at Khavaran
Evidence of crimes against humanity being deliberately wiped
(5 February 2009) The Iranian government should immediately stop its ongoing destruction of mass graves at the Khavaran site in Tehran, which is the burial site of thousands of political prisoners executed in 1988, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said today.
The mass graves at Khavaran remain the only place for families of the victims to remember and honor their loved ones. For the past twenty years, the Iranian government has consistently attempted to prevent families from holding memorials at the site on the anniversary of the mass executions.
Within the past month, government forces have undertaken a complete destruction of the site by bulldozing the grounds and planting trees under the guise of “Development and Organizing the Cemetery of Religious Minorities.”
In 1988, the Iranian government summarily and extrajudicially executed thousands of political prisoners held in Iranian jails. The government has never acknowledged these executions nor provided any information as to how many prisoners were killed. The majority of those executed were serving prison sentences for their political activities after unfair trials in revolutionary courts. Those who had been sentenced, however, had not been sentenced to death. The deliberate and systematic manner in which these extrajudicial executions took place constitutes a crime against humanity under international law.
Families of the victims of the 1988 mass killings have repeatedly written to authorities and advocated for saving the site as the burial place of their children, but the government has not replied to these demands. On 26 January 2009, the Judiciary’s spokesperson, Alireza Jamshidi, told a press conference that he had no knowledge of the ongoing destruction at Khavaran.
“This is an important site containing evidence of mass killings. Instead of destroying it, the government should immediately start forensic investigations to identify and document the remains of the victims,” said Hadi Ghaemi, spokesperson for the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.
According to the families of the victims, the recent destruction of the site has turned up bones and other remains of the victims in the debris, including articles of clothing and other possessions. The families are reportedly greatly distressed at the way the remains of their relatives are treated.
The Campaign calls on the Iranian government to immediately heed the demands of the families, to exhume victim’s remains, and to provide the families the opportunity to arrange for dignified burial.
The 1988 mass killings should be acknowledged by the Iranian government, and an independent investigation to hold accountable those responsible for this atrocity must be launched.
“Khavaran represents the darkest chapter of human rights violations in contemporary Iranian history. The government can never erase and rewrite history with this crude attempt to destroy evidence and deprive families of remembrance. There is an urgent need to address this crime against humanity and to provide the families assurances that the remains of their loved ones will be protected,” Ghaemi said.