The Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has appointed a criminal suspect of crimes against humanity as the Minister of Justice in the new cabinet. (Justice for Iran)

By: Kamil Alboshoka

Track Persia- August 13, 2017

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has appointed  Ali Reza Avaei as the Minister of Justice on 10th August 2017. Mr Avaei is on the list of the EU human rights sanctions due to human rights violations and involvement in the killing of political prisoners in 1988.[i]

According to Justice for Iran, Ali Reza Avaei was the Revolutionary Prosecutor in the city of Qunitra (Dezful) in North of Al-Ahwaz in 1988. Mr Ali Reza Avaei was a member of Death Penalty Board at the UNESCO Prison in 1988 and was involved in deciding on the execution of dozens of political prisoners.

Justice for Iran also reported that Hassan Rouhani introduced Mustafa Pour Mohammadi as Minister of Justice during his first tenure. Mostafa Pour Mohammadi was also involved in the execution of massive numbers of political prisoners in Even and Gohardasht prisons in 1988.

Ali Reza Avaei has been accused by the European Union (EU) of involvement in human rights abuses in the aftermath of the 2009 elections. The EU blocked the assets of Mr Avaei in the EU countries. According to the European Council’s decision, Mr  Avaei has been in charge of arbitrary detention, violations of prisoners’ rights and many executions, as the head of the Tehran judiciary.[ii]

Shadi Sadr, a member of Justice for Iran, in her report about the selection of Mr Avaei as Minister of Justice said “in the summer of 1988 and within two months, thousands of political prisoners across Iran were secretly executed, and their bodies were thrown into anonymous graves’’.

Ms Sadr added that in many Iranian cities, including Dezful in Al-Ahwaz, a trilateral delegation known as the “Death Board”, consisting of Sharia judge, Revolutionary Prosecutor and representative of the Ministry of Intelligence were responsible for this massacre.[iii]

Avaei, 61 years of age, was the Revolutionary Public Prosecutor in the city of Dezful  from 1986 until 1988, and then he became  Ahwaz’s General and Revolutionary Prosecutor from 1988 to 1994. He played a key role in the massacre of political prisoners. From 2005 to 2014, he was the head of the entire justice department in Tehran, as was involved in the torture and murder of detainees of the 2009 demonstration in Tehran.

In addition, the European Union added  Avaei on the list of human rights sanctions in 2011 for having an effective role in violating the rights of Iranian.[iv]

More than 30 government officials in Iran are on the EU sanction list, and 7 Iranian figures are on the American list. Many international and Iranian human rights organisations believe that the number of Iranian leaders who are involved in human rights violations is high than that in the lists of the EU and US.

National/international reactions

Justice for Iran condemned the nomination of Mr. Avaei as Iran’s Minister of Justice. According to a report by Justice for Iran, in the interview with a survivor of the 1988 Dezful massacre, Mr. Avaei was  member of the group who transferred prisoners to a military garrison near the Karkheh River and executed them before burying the bodies in a pit in the same barracks. This place is now under the control by the Revolutionary Guards called Garrison of Quds of Dezful.

Dr Jafar Hashemi, the Ahwazi lawyer and Iran expert also condemned the selection of Mr Avaei as the Minister of Justice. Dr Hashemi in an  interview said that selecting Ali Reza Avaei as the Minister of Justice in the new cabinet under Rouhani presidency is an insult to the victims of 1988 massacre.

Dr Hashemi pointed out that the Iranian government, instead of responding to the killing of prisoners in 1988 and the torture the protesters in 2009, selected the perpetrator  as the justice minister. He believes that the European Union should increase pressure on the Iranian government with a view to prosecuting those accused of crimes against humanity at international courts.

Director of the Ahwazi Organisation for the Human Rights Mr. Saeed Hamidan,  former mayor in Khalafia city in South Al-ahwaz and the former political prisoner, said that the selection of a defendant as justice minister is part of Iranian policy which is derived from the Iranian constitution has given the authority in Iran the right to kill and torture political prisoners because the regime believes the opposition are enemies of God on earth. Hamidan, therefore, called for the trial of  Avaei and many Iranian figures who are responsible for crimes against humanity in Iranian prisons in general and in Ahwaz city in particular.

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[i] Justice for Iran, 11th August 2017: https://goo.gl/AXVkiq

[ii] Voice of People, 8th August 2017: https://goo.gl/Xca1Lr

[iii] Justice for Iran, 11th August 2017: https://goo.gl/es1EjQ

[iv] Citizens, Justice for Iran, 10th August 2017: https://goo.gl/ZNKkyw

About Track Persia

Track PersiaTrack Persia is a Platform run by dedicated analysts who spend much of their time researching the Middle East, in due process we fall upon many indications of growing expansionary ambitions on the part of Iran in the MENA region and the wider Islamic world. These ambitions commonly increase tensions and undermine stability.