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NGOs criticize the “impunity” of the Iranian president who died in a crash

Photo: Atta Kenare Archives Agence France-Presse Iranian President Ebrahim Raïssi during a press conference in July 2022.

Stuart Williams – Agence France-Presse

Posted at 12:22 p.m.

  • Middle East

Human rights NGOs and Iranian opponents regret that the death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raïssi means that he was never held accountable for the crimes he committed according to them for decades in the country.

After rapidly rising through the ranks in the years following the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Mr. Raïssi was accused by activists of overseeing mass executions of prisoners in 1988 and then committing numerous human rights violations as head of the judiciary and, later, as president.

“Ebrahim Raïssi was a symbol of judicial impunity for criminals and of lack of accountability within the system of the Islamic Republic,” Mahmood-Amiry Moghaddam, director of the Norway-based NGO Iran Human Rights (IHR), told AFP.

He “should have been prosecuted for crimes against humanity and answered in a fair trial for the countless atrocities he committed over four decades,” Moghaddam added.

Shadi Sadr, co-founder of the NGO Justice for Iran, which campaigns for accountability for violations of Iranians' rights, criticized some messages of condolence from figures such as European Council President Charles Michel after the death of Mr. Raïssi and his Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.

“Such initiatives are seen as a betrayal by the countless victims of rights violations of man, which accentuates the disappointment of the Iranian population with the international community,” she told AFP.

Crimes against humanity

Other NGOs, including Amnesty International, have long accused Mr. Raïssi of being a member of a four-person “death committee” that approved the execution of thousands of political prisoners in 1988, most of them alleged members of the Iranian People's Mojahedin (MEK) opposition movement, banned in Iran.

Mr. Raisi, considered before his death as a possible successor to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, categorically denied any personal involvement, while welcoming the decision to carry out the executions.

In September 2020, a group of seven UN special rapporteurs wrote to the Iranian government demanding accountability for the executions, stating that “the situation may amount to crimes against humanity.”

M. Raisi was promoted to prosecutor general of Tehran in 1989, then, in 2004, deputy head of the judiciary, a position he held for ten years, encompassing the period of the major protests of 2009.

He became head of the judiciary in 2019 and president in 2021, while in 2022 his government implemented a harsh crackdown on protests led by women, which left hundreds dead, according to NGOs.

In early 2024, an independent United Nations fact-finding mission reported that the Iranian government had committed crimes against humanity due to the “violent repression” of protests and discrimination against women.

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Pillar of the system

“Sympathy towards him is an insult to his victims and to the Iranian nation, whose only regret is that he did not live long enough to witness the fall of the Islamic Republic and be tried for his crimes,” said Reza Pahlavi, son of Iran’s deposed shah and a leading figure in the 'opposition.

“Mr. Raïssi was a pillar of a system that imprisons, tortures and kills people who dare to criticize state policies,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran.

“His death allowed him to escape the obligation to account for his numerous crimes and the atrocities committed by the state under his rule,” he added.

This activist warned of the risk of an escalation of repression against Iranian civil society, as Iranian leaders, under the leadership of Mr. Khamenei, seek to maintain control of power after the loss sudden action by Mr. Raïssi.

“What is crucial now is that the international community does not allow the Islamic Republic to exploit this moment to repress and further brutalize the Iranian people,” Mr. Ghaemi said.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116