Every parent understands this simple concept: Do not reward kids’ bad behavior. But one can only wonder whether, when it comes to international relations and dealing with rogue regimes, our policymakers understand this basic concept.
The case in point is the policy vis-a-vis the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The Iranian regime has imprisoned a British charity worker and sentenced her to five years’ imprisonment on bogus national security charges.
The case of Nazanin Ratcliffe has shocked the British public as it has unfolded over the past six months, since she was arrested by regime officials when she attempted to fly back to England after taking her daughter, Gabriella, to visit her parents.
However, this is only the latest in a long line of human rights abuses by Tehran. Earlier this year, a leaked audio file provided further proof of the complicity of top-level regime members in a 1988 massacre, which killed 30,000 political prisoners, including juveniles and pregnant women.
In the audio file, Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, the heir-apparent to then-Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, can be heard criticizing the death committee for enforcing the massacre.
He said: “In my opinion, the greatest crime committed during the Islamic republic, for which history will condemn us, has been committed by you.”
For this, he was dismissed and placed under house arrest.
Geoffrey Robertson, the former U.N. tribunal chief judge on Sierra Leone, wrote a report on the massacre. He described it as one of the worst crimes against humanity since World War II.
The main targets were activists of the opposition movement People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI, or MEK), although the regime also executed relatives of members or casual supporters as well as other dissidents.
Those executed were already serving — some had even finished serving — prison sentences, but the regime did not care. They were sentenced to death after a mockery of court trial, lasting a maximum of five minutes and generally consisting of just one question; What is your political affiliation?
When the families of the victims came looking for answers, they were merely handed a bag of their loved one’s possessions, denied information on the burial location, and warned against publicly mourning the victims.
The Iranian regime has repeatedly tried to hide its crimes and discredit the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), for publicizing the massacre.
Commenting on the disclosure of the audio file, the president-elect of the NCRI, Maryam Rajavi said, “The recording is irrefutable evidence that leaders of the mullahs’ regime are responsible for crimes against humanity and the unprecedented genocide.”
Subsequently, the NCRI published a list of nearly 60 regime members heavily involved in the massacre who still hold powerful positions in Iran today. Rather than being punished, they have been protected and promoted.
Mostafa Pour Mohammadi, justice minister under the so-called moderate President Hassan Rouhani, was an Intelligence Ministry agent at the time of the massacre and is one of those heard on the tape. In late August, he boasted that he was proud of his role in massacring 30,000 political prisoners.
Current Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei was Iran’s president during the massacre.
In the run-up to the 2015 nuclear deal, the Iranian regime tried to pretend to the world that it was a moderating dictatorship — an oxymoron if ever there was one. We must not be fooled.
Lest you think that 1988 was the last time that the Iranian regime ruthlessly murdered its opponents, there have been near 1,000 executions in the last 12 months, according to the U.N. secretary-general and the special rapporteur on Iran.
The mullahs’ regime is still the leading state sponsor of terror, has the highest execution rate per capita in the world, and still implements horrific corporal punishments like public flogging, limb amputation and blinding with acid. These are medieval punishments that have no place in 2016.
The Iranian regime has evaded justice for far too long; it must be held accountable. The United Nations should launch an impartial investigation into the 1988 massacre, with a view to possible prosecutions in the International Criminal Court. This initiative could be included in the upcoming U.N. censure resolution on Iran’s human rights record during the current General Assembly session.
The U.N. was officially formed in 1945 to prevent state-sponsored massacres like those seen in Nazi Germany. Asking it to stand by its core values and not rewarding the Iranian regime for its bad behavior is not too much to ask.
As Thomas Paine said: “A body of men holding themselves accountable to nobody ought not to be trusted by anybody.”
That is true about the Iranian regime, too.
• Alex Carlile of Berriew is a Liberal Democrat member of the United Kingdom’s House of Lords and co-chairman of the British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom. He was the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation in the United Kingdom (2001-11).