International People’s Tribunal on Iran Atrocities of November 2019
On 15 November 2019, following a massive, sudden spike in fuel prices, nationwide protests broke out across Iran. Protests were largely peaceful, but in certain cities, public and private property incurred damage, allegedly due to the protestors. At its peak, from 16 November, the government imposed a near-total shutdown of the internet, and conducted a brutal crackdown on protestors. Police, security, and military forces shot and arrested protestors, while the authorities restricted access to information.
Reports that protesters were being killed emerged during the early hours of the protests, with the government admitting at least 255. Media and Human Rights organisations however, have reported a death toll of between 304 and 1,500. Human rights organisation, Justice for Iran has documented incidents of use of unlawful lethal force in 43 cities across 17 provinces, over the course of less than five days, causing hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries.
One year on, in line with the Supreme Leader’s approved policy, the authorities continue to refuse to initiate judicial investigations or criminal proceedings. Instead, the families have had to settle for proposals of money and ‘martyrdom’ while being threatened and intimidated if they wanted to pursue their complaints.
Human rights groups have commenced two initiatives as a minimum form of justice and accountability for the victims’ families.
- The establishment of a UN Commission of Inquiry by a group of international and Iranian NGOs;
- The adoption of human rights sanctions (including asset freezing and travel bans) against perpetrators by the EU.
Despite a lot of talks and promises, the international community has failed to take any meaningful or effective action.
On the anniversary of the November atrocities, a group of human rights advocates, and three Human Rights organisations set up an international people’s tribunal – The Aban Tribunal (Aban was the month that the atrocities took place in the Iranian calendar). These organisations include Justice for Iran, Iran Human Rights and ECPM – Together against the Death Penalty who have worked with the victims’ families and protesters, as well as detainees on death row, and those whose lives have been deeply affected by the atrocities. They have given the mandate to a group of renowned international lawyers (the panel) on behalf of the victims’ community, and the public continence to
investigate the violations that took place between 15-18 November 2019 in Iran.
The findings of rigorous investigations conducted by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran, the UN Secretary General, and organisations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Justice for Iran and Iran Human Rights provide paramount evidence on grave human rights violations committed by state forces during the protests and the absolute impunity the perpetrators have enjoyed. Therefore, the establishment of such a tribunal is urgent and necessary.
The Counsel gathers as much evidence as possible from victims and expert witnesses and then provides said evidence to the Tribunal. The role of Justice for Iran as the organiser, is to act as a service-provider to the steering committee, the Counsel, and the panel by any means required.
The Co-counsellors of the Tribunal are Hamid Sabi and Regina Paulose.
Hamid Sabi is a London-based human rights lawyer who has served the Iran Tribunal, China Tribunal and on-going Uyghur Tribunal.
Regina Paulose is a practising attorney in the United States who focuses on international criminal law and human rights. From 2014-2016 she was the Chair for the Steering Committee of UK Child Sex Abuse People’s Tribunal. She also served as a panel member in the China Tribunal.
After hearing the evidence and deliberating, the panel will determine whether crimes under international law have been committed by Iranian state forces and paramilitaries during the November protests in 2019. The panel will also append the perpetrators in its final judgment.
The members of the panel are as follows:
Co-founder and Director of Lawyers for Justice in Libya, Visiting Professor at the Helena Kennedy Centre for International Justice and a former Associate Fellow in the International Law Programme at Chatham House.
Wayne Jordash QC
International Criminal Lawyer, Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), International Court of Justice and International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), and other international courts
Prosecutor of the Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal on Japan’s Military Sexual Slavery, Organiser of the People’s Tribunal on Indonesia
Dr Carla Ferstman
Senior Lecturer, School of Law, University of Essex, and member of the expert groups for the Convention against Torture Initiative.
Former Justice, South Africa Constitutional Court
International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), International Criminal Lawyer, Extraordinary Criminal Court for Cambodia (ECCC), and other international courts
Invented by Bertrand Russel and Jean Paul Sartre, for investigating war crimes committed in the Vietnam war (known as Russell Tribunal), people’s tribunals have become a popular tool, (or as some authors have suggested movements) for raising awareness and advocacy for victims of mass atrocities, who have been denied justice by the international accountability mechanisms.
The Tribunal’s launch was officially announced on the anniversary of the atrocities (15-17 November 2020). The hearing is to be held in November 2021, with the Tribunal’s Judgment to be announced in early 2022.