Invite from UN rights body to Iran’s justice minister is a huge shame

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The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has invited Alireza Avaie, Iranian regime’s Justice Minister to speak in its upcoming session in Geneva.

If we stop for a moment and consider his track record of the past four decades, there is hardly a time in his working life not marred with the blood of innocent people.

It is indeed a “shame” to invite Avaie to address the highest human rights body. Nikki Haley, US Ambassador to the United Nations, said that the council was “discredited” by the Iranian Justice Minister’s members, adding that it only reinforces the American criticism of the UN and threats to withhold funds to the world body.

The UNHRC could not have found a worst time to extend this invitation. Only a couple months have passed since this regime violently crushed peaceful protesters demanding their basic rights to a better life.

Aavie as part of the theocratic regime’s judiciary no doubt has been instrumental in killing innocent protesters in jails, claiming they committed “suicide.” At least 12 young men were killed while in judicial custody. How could all of them die the same way?

On top of that, a prominent Iranian environmentalist and an Iranian-Canadian university professor, Kavous Seyed-Emami, was also killed in prison and again the judiciary spokesman claimed he took his own life.

Just last week, the judiciary and other plainclothes security forces created a major standoff with peaceful Iranian Dervishes. Throughout the history of Iran’s Dervishes they have never been considered the confrontational kind.

They are known as people who generally avoid conflicts and in their teachings they have always been thought to refrain from violence. But security forces attacked their peaceful gathering near their leader’s home in Tehran.

Following the clashes, more than 500 of them were arrested. Some of their women were questioned all night long, while they had broken body parts. Then again Gholam Hossein Mohseni-Eje’i, the judiciary’s spokesman labeled them as “rioters” and “thugs” and Friday prayer leaders throughout Iran in an orchestrated move called for their heads.

Hassan Rouhani, the supposed moderate, sided with security forces and showed his true color and called for an iron fist in dealing with the Dervishes. A repeat of the same position he took with respect to the protester late last year and early this year in Iran.

Avaie’s personal record in participating in human rights violations goes a long way back when he was partner in crime with the likes of Ebrahim Raisi tasked by Khomeini to wipe out political prisoners in late 80s.

Raisi and Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi -- former Iran’s Justice Minister in Rouhani’s cabinet -- were two of the four members of the Death Commission in Tehran who were tasked by then Supreme Leader Khomeini to summarily execute political prisoners.

Khomeini hand wrote a fatwa - a religious decree - authorizing the Commission’s task. In the summer of 1988, the Commission handed down 30,000 death sentences. The kangaroo courts hardly lasted more than three minutes on average. Some of the political prisoners who miraculously survived the slaughter have written or spoken about their ordeals.

The judges asked a simple question: Do you still believe in Mojahedin or the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) ? And depending on the answer, one could end up before a hangman. The gruesome accounts of survivors, especially female prisoners, often leave the listeners in shock.

The spotlight on all these atrocities came about after an audiotape was leaked out by late Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri’s son in August 2016. Montazeri, the handpicked successor of Khomeini, was sacked for his public objections to mass executions in 1988. He spent the rest of his life under house arrest and died in 2009.

What was never investigated until many years later was the fact that a copycat of the Commission was active in other cities throughout Iran. Avaie was tasked with these in southwestern province of Khuzestan. There are chilling accounts of his brutality in dealing with prisoners in the southern city of Dezful in 1988. Ironically, the prison in that city was called “UNESCO.” It is now a site listed as a candidate for World Heritage status.

Eyewitnesses have described that on the order of Avaei, political prisoners, some of whom were under 18, were executed in groups of two or three in the backyard the prison.

Avaei in recent years has been elevated in the rank and file of Iranian regime’s judiciary system. He first headed the judiciary in Lorestan, Markazi and Isfahan provinces. Then he was given a better position in 2005, which he held until 2014 as President of the Judiciary in Tehran Province.

It was during this period that Avaie landed on EU’s black list for human rights violations. The 2011 EU sanctions reprimanded Avaei for his actions as President of Tehran Judiciary, “He has been responsible for human rights violations, arbitrary arrests, denials of prisoners’ rights and increase in executions.”

UNHRC should draw the line and set an example that crimes against humanity will not go unpunished, by not receiving the Iranian regime criminal Justice Minister.

Avaie is banned by the EU for his participation in human rights violations in Iran. It is time to uphold Europe’s human rights principles and act by not letting him come to Switzerland.

Reza Shafiee is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). He tweets @shafiee_shafiee.

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