I just came across this article in the daily telegraph referring to former UN judge Geoffrey Robertson QC’s accusatory report on the direct involvement of ex Presidential candidate and current Green Opposition Leader Mir Hussein Moussavi in the 1988 massacres.
The investigation conducted by GeoffreyRobertson QC and was commissioned by as far as I know a fairly well intentioned and commendable Iranian Diaspora Human Rights Organization known as The Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation for the promotion of human rights and democracy in Iran (ABF) which is a non-governmental non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of human rights and democracy in Iran.
Now I’m no fan of Moussavi but all I hope is that political prejudice and frustrations with his leadership capacities of what has become known as “the Green Movement” are not the main reason behind this report which seems to offer weak evidence on Mir Hussein Moussavi’s direct involvement in the killings or in the decisions leading to the killings.
As an Official member of the regime and important member of government he is however accountable for endorsing the regime’s policies at the time including arrests and executions of opponents presented as “terrorists”.
Justified or not The MKO were involved in an armed struggle against a regime which itself was fighting an external enemy ( albeit a prolonged war which could have been halted were it not encouraged by no other but the leader of the revolution himself: the Grand Ayatollah Khomeiny) for more than 8 years at the time of the massacre and which had lost more than a million people on the War Front.
Given the circumstance I very much doubt that any high or low profile government employee, let alone the nation at large would have been particularly sensitive to the treatment delivered to the MKO at the time given that they were presented as “traitors” to the revolution and the a nation which had fought an existential war against an enemy armed to the teeth by Western “Democracies” whose very own involvement in prolonging the war and silent complicity in overlooking equally condemnable war crimes against Iranians were never questioned by an International Court of Justice:
nor claim that Moussavi or any other high profile members of the regime are not accountable nor have to respond to such serious accusations but any fair assessment of his eventual direct responsibility in the massacre based on merely his harsh words in an interview given on Australian TV is not enough an evidence to accuse him.
When Government officials in any country express themselves publicly they have to show solidarity with the government they serve and are often heard to express things which do not necessarily reflect what they think intimately. Otherwise they are merely kicked out of office and in totalitarian states often arrested if not worse.
If a scandal breaks open in a democratic state involving the president or Prime Minister which have far more powers than what Moussavi had at the time ( PM in IRan are sidecicks of the President who himself is a sidecick of the VF who has the real power) whether you are minister of the interior or minister of education or transport you are expected to immediately defend your government against any accusations even if it means justifying the actions for which your government is accused.
Now if one is struggling with a moral dilemma and is bold enough to oppose those actions he or she would at best resign. This happened in France for instance with a Minister of Defense Jean Pierre Chevenment who opposed France’s involvement in the First Gulf War by resigning at the height of the conflict when French and Allied Troops drove Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait.
That spectacular gesture was widely commented and criticized by many but had the benefit of expressing his blunt opinion and difference of views with his government’s policies. Would he have had the same courage if he were working in a totalitarian system ? I am not sure.
Given that Moussavi was operating within such a totalitarian system born from the revolution he supported and hoped to see become victorious in order to achieve that ideal of an “Islamic Democracy” in which the majority of Iranians who supported the revolution believed in, I find it hard that his responsibility in the massacre’s should be judged because of his allegiance to the regime’s policies.
That would be a distorted and rather biased way of looking at a case like this.
To draw parallels with the ethnic cleansings in Ex Yougoslavia makes no sense in this case. Given that the motivations behind both massacres are not at all the same. That is not to say that one is justified and the other is not. Far from that ! But that you cannot compare a massacre of innocent civilians like Sebrenica triggered by a Civil War with a massacre of people involved in an armed struggle against the State as was the case of the MKO.
On the otherhand the massacre of unarmed people in Camp Ashraf by a Foreign government who is supposed to protect them falls or can fall into a similar category as what happened in Sebrenica.
The fact that you cannot compare two distinctly different situations does not mean that each in their own way were not horrible or absolutely condemnable as crimes against humanity. On the contrary !
But you cannot compare the motivations and circumstances which led to two very different crimes on an equal level because they ARE Different.
Defining that motivation is important in order to establish the nature of a given accusation ( ethnic cleansing, genocide, political execution etc ) and the exact responsibility ( direct orders, or endorsement once the crime was committed without you prior knowledge) of anyone deemed involved in a given massacre.
The Nuremberg Trials are a perfect example of the moral dilemmas any unbiased judge or prosecutor was confronted to. Barely 11 of those accused of a direct responsibility in the Holocaust were ultimately hanged. All others got Long imprisonments like for Albert Speer ( who was minister of War and industry very much like Moussavi) if not life imprisonment as was the case for Rudolf Hess. Yet both served and supported a regime which was directly responsible for the massacre of Millions of Innocent civilians including 6 Million Jews.
It is interesting to note that this former UN Judge on this affair for instance who has undertook the investigation also defended the Irish IRA an organization which was involved in an Armed Struggle against the British Government.
It’s not because horrible things take place in the world that one should generalize or reduce everything under a common denominator.
Only a serious investigation can lead to serious conclusions.
Everyone is innocent until proven guilty.
Does that mean Moussavi is not accountable for that matter ? Definitively not. Actually that is one reason I never took part in the elections under this regime contrary to so many including in the diaspora who rushed enthusiastically to cast their votes despite the horrible record of this regime.
So why Judge Moussavi and not Your Own Motivations which prompted you to vote for him ?
If Moussavi as suggested by this article endorsed the massacres in his interview on an Australian TV back in the late 80’s or early 90’s or justified the regime’s crackdown on opponents of the republic he chose to serve then there are two levels of responsibilities which have to be established:
1) Was he directly involved in the decisions leading to the massacre ?
2) Did he merely endorse the executions once they were carried out without his prior knowledge ?
If the answer to the First question is YES then there can be no ambiguity as to his direct responsibility in this horrendous crime.
If Not then his is only guilty by association but then so are all those who voted for him in the last elections.
Fortunately My Conscience is Clear on Both Accounts:
So Personally the least I would expect from any eventual international investigation is a fair and balanced judgment, not one based merely on political motivations and calculations which should have no place in a court of justice.
So please spare me all the Banalized and inaccurate parallels with the Nazi Holocaust, or Rwandha or Ex Yougoslavia when trying to establish the exact circumstances of any genocidal crime.
As Judge or Prosecutor Your Job is to establish the TRUTH Not deliver a history Lesson !