On 15th November 2019, the Iranian government announced that fuel prices had tripled, leading ordinary citizens to protest in the streets. The nationwide protests were peaceful and only consisted of people blocking roads with their cars and shouting slogans. Over the week that followed, protests in most cities, towns, and provinces were repressed by police and military forces who attacked protestors and bystanders with firearms and war weapons. Hundreds, if not thousands, were killed, thousands more injured, arrested, and/or tortured.
Aside from condemning the Iranian government, no tangible action has been taken by the international community to seek justice for the victims and hold the perpetrators accountable. Following calls by the mothers of those killed in November 2019, three NGOs established the Iran Atrocities (Aban) Tribunal to put an end to the international community’s inaction and indifference.
They mandated six internationally renowned lawyers to hear the evidence and make a judgement over whether the crimes committed qualify as crimes against humanity based on evidence presented by the Counsel.
The Counsel has accused 160 Iranian officials (including current president, Ebrahim Raisi) of crimes against humanity, all of whom are in the process of being reviewed by the judges. These 160 individuals were formally invited to give the Tribunal evidence in their defence, but no response has been made.
The Statute for Aban Tribunal is available here.
On the anniversary of the November Atrocities, a group of human rights advocates, and three Human Rights organisations initiated the Iran Atrocities Tribunal, which is known in Iran as the Aban Tribunal, named after the month in which these events took place.
Organisations involved include Justice for Iran, Iran Human Rights and Together against the Death Penalty (EPCM). These have all 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 on behalf of the victims’ communities 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. The establishment of such a tribunal is therefore urgent and necessary.
The Counsel gathers as much evidence as possible from victims and expert witnesses, which is then provided to the Tribunal. The role of the organiser is to act as service-provider to the Counsel and the Panel by any means required.
The Co-Counsels 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.
Internatioanal PEOPLE’S TRIBUNALS
Invented by Bertrand Russell and Jean-Paul Sartre to investigate 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 Iran atrocities (15-17 November 2020). The hearings were held from 10-14th November 2021, and from 4-6th February in London, with the Tribunal’s Judgment to be announced in May 2022.
The Statute for Aban Tribunal is available here.