January 27, 2022
A second round of hearings in a landmark “people’s tribunal” examining potential crimes against humanity in the November 2019 protests will take place in London next weekend.
The Aban Tribunal, an initiative led by by Iranian rights groups in the diaspora and international legal experts, held its first hearings in November 2021. A panel of distinguished lawyers heard evidence from tens of eyewitnesses, including active and former members of the police and security forces, about the manner in which the regime responded to mass demonstrations that month.
The panel heard first-hand testimonies of indiscriminate shooting into crowds, protracted and life-altering torture, sexual abuse including of minors, security forces’ entering hospitals to look for participants and deliberate looting and sabotage carried out by agents of the Basij and security forces. It also heard evidence that an effective “shoot to kill” order had been given by the Supreme National Security Council.
The first five hearings were broadcast live from Church House, Westminster and watched by millions around the world, including inside Iran. Another 116 people then came forward with fresh evidence, prompting a decision to keep the file open and hold more hearings.
Initially the co-counsel, lawyers Hamid Sabi and Regina Paulose, had accused 133 Iranian officials of having either direct involvement or “command responsibility” for crimes committed in November 2019. Because of the new evidence received, that number has increased to 160. The names of the newly-accused have not yet been received.
From Friday, February 4 to Sunday, February 6 the Aban Tribunal will reconvene in London to hear a second round of in-person testimonies. This time, because of security concerns and the sensitivity of the information, only a small number of media personnel will attend and the hearings will not be broadcast live.
In advance of the hearings, Sabi and Paulose wrote to the Iranian Ambassador to the UK, asking him to notify the 160 accused and to invite them, in most cases for the second time, to make or submit representations. A second notice has also been mailed to their addresses. So far, not one of the officials accused – from municipal authorities right up to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei – has responded.
The Aban Tribunal does not carry legal weight by itself. But the findings can be used to inform future sanctions, or future criminal cases if the perpetrators travel abroad and are arrested. Crimes against humanity are a class of crime considered to be so severe that charges can be brought against those accused in a third country, as was recently the case for Hamid Nouri in Sweden.
“It is unfortunate that your government and 160 accused have failed to engage with this Tribunal in a meaningful way,” the co-counsel wrote to Baharvand. “The perceived immunity from prosecution for crimes committed by the many government officials may prove to be a myth.
“The perpetrators of these crimes will face the full weight of justice whenever they are apprehended in any civilised country. The time has come for your government to start piercing the veil of impunity that is central to almost all the ills of this country and bring back accountability, transparency, and rule of law. As history has shown, no government lasts forever.”
You can watch the recordings of the first five sittings here. For all our coverage of the Aban Tribunal to date, see the links below.