Individual Accountability Mechanisms for Violations of Human Rights in Iran

States have an obligation to respect, protect, and fulfill human rights as guaranteed by the mechanisms under which they agree to be held accountable. Core human rights instruments like the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights  (ICESCR) contain the bulk of basic human rights law while a variety of thematic instruments focus on specific issues ranging from torture, the rights of the child, refugees, and more. Each of these instruments is monitored by a specific body under which the State is required to report on an annual basis. Violations of these instruments, which includes the failure to ensure that the rights guaranteed within are upheld,  constitute a State’s violation of human rights law. Unfortunately, in the case of Iran, these violations are seemingly endless. The State regularly fails to comply with reporting requirements, and blatantly disregards obligations to protect human rights using a variety of inadequate justifications.

HRA collaborated closely with partners at Impact Iran to highlight this issue more broadly in the Iran Rights Index. The index demonstrates the hundreds of recommendations Iran has received urging compliance with international human rights mechanisms. With HRA and partner documentation it is clear, as one moves through the index, the State, while often stating otherwise, consistently fails to meet the standards set forth. 

There has been comprehensive work done on the need for State accountability in the context of Iran. While continued work on the subject is necessary, this article aims to focus on the individual and the need for more than blanketed calls for accountability as a means to end the cycle of impunity. The following is a non-exhaustive look at mechanisms for just that.

Highlighting the gravity of the situation of impunity, in his latest report to the Human Rights Council, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Iran, Javaid Rehman, stated 

“The system of governance and the corresponding absence of a system of accountability has created a culture of impunity that perpetuates the cycles of violence since violations of human rights have no consequences for the State or for individual perpetrators. There appears to be a State policy of intimidating, prosecuting, or silencing those who call for accountability, justice, and truth, whether they are victims themselves, relatives, human rights defenders, lawyers, or organizations.”

The need for a discussion around individual accountability mechanisms is vital to the discussion of the situation of human rights in Iran. HRA’s Spreading Justice database, by way of illustration, lists over 440 individual violators independently verified by HRA experts to have been involved in serious violations of human rights; a list that grows daily. The individuals range from high-ranking government and intelligence officials to prison guards and interrogators. It is clear that these individuals will not be held accountable for their crimes within Iran’s domestic judicial framework (as it stands today), and as such, it is necessary to look outward, and explore international accountability mechanisms available when domestic remedies are either exhausted or have otherwise failed. It is of note that the following paths are not unique to the situation in Iran. 


Developed as a means to hold perpetrators accountable for serious human rights abuses, individual sanctions designations are particularly powerful tools in the context of authoritarian regimes where accountability in a domestic judicial framework is unlikely at best. 

Several jurisdictions across the globe employ a variety of targeted human rights sanctions regimes. No regime is identical in legal character, language, consequence, or otherwise. Nonetheless, they share common characteristics and the goal of holding individual human rights violators, and in some cases, entities, to account. 

While there are country-specific human rights lists, such as the United States’ “IRAN-HR” (instituted under the United States Executive Order 13553), there is growing momentum for Global Magnitsky Human Rights Legislation (or GloMag as it is often referred to). Currently adopted and employed by a number of States and interstate institutions, GloMag sanctions designate foreign offenders accused of corruption and/or human rights abuses and typically result in asset freezing and/or travel bans. The use of these targeted tools is a welcome shift from the consequential collective punishment that their broad-sectoral, and often conflated counterpart imposes on innocent, often revictimized civilians.

The United States signed its version of Magnitsky legislation into law in 2012. The original law was amended in 2016 to capture what it does today in the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act. The amended law allows for the designation of foreign officials implicated in human rights abuses anywhere in the world. Canada followed in 2017, passing the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act, The European Union in June 2020, the United Kingdom in July 2020, and Australia in 2021. A number of other states have enacted the legislation and/or have pending legislation tabled. 

HRA Senior Advocacy Coordinator, Skylar Thompson says, “It’s an important moment in history as the consecutive passing of such legislation around the globe signifies a strong and united goal of holding individual perpetrators of serious human rights abuses accountable and codifying the ability to do so into law. Passing laws however is not enough. There must be a broadened, coordinated use of the available tools in order to conceive their full effectiveness.”  

The international community would benefit immensely from greater coordination and information sharing on individual designations. A precursor for much of the work on designations is the designator States’ coordination with civil society. According to Human Rights First, in the first year of the United States’ GloMag program more than one-third of the 240 first-year designations had a basis in civil society recommendations. “Coordinated efforts among States with shared interests would lessen the burden on a civil society whose documentation is essential and resources stretched thin,” says Thompson. 

Universal Jurisdiction 

The previous year was monumental for the growing importance of Universal Jurisdiction. A recent report published by Trial International cited the 2021 conviction of 15 individuals responsible for international crimes under the principle of Universal Jurisdiction, with 17 accused remaining on trial, including one Iranian in Sweden, Hamid Noury. Noury is accused of participating in the mass murder and torture of political prisoners in Karaj prison in 1988. 

The Universal Jurisdiction case against an Iranian official in Sweden is not only monumental for the principle, it’s monumental for Iranian justice and accountability efforts. For Iranians, witnessing an individual tried in a foreign court for the mass murder and torture of political prisoners in Iran is the first form of accountability of its kind. Never before has anyone been criminally charged or held accountable for these crimes. On the contrary, many involved have seemingly continued to move up the ranks. 

A case of this kind sets a precedent and lays the groundwork for others to follow suit. It also sends a strong message to those inside of the country that impunity at home, no matter how long it is enjoyed, does not mean impunity abroad. More details on Noury are available here. 

The principle of Universal Jurisdiction dates back to the 1949 Geneva Conventions and applies to crimes including crimes against humanity, war crimes, or genocide as defined under international law.  The principle sets forth that some crimes are so grave that they merit prosecution in the territory of another State, the crime taking place requiring no direct relation to the prosecuting State. Much like the various sanctions regimes, each State that applies Universal Jurisdiction applies it differently, they have varying degrees of application, statutes of limitations, legal frameworks, etc. Nonetheless, also much like the sanctions regimes, they share a common goal of holding individuals accountable for serious violations of human rights. 

Universal Jurisdiction can be seen as one of the foremost powerful tools in the realm of international justice. The case of Hamid Noury may be the first, but it will surely not be the last. 

International Courts and Special Tribunals 

International Criminal Court (ICC)

While it is a theoretically available path, Iran is not a State Party to the Rome Statute, and as such, the ICC does not have jurisdiction over its crimes unless such crimes are committed in the territory of a signatory State (there is a myriad of other pathways available to create jurisdiction that is outside the scope of this article). It’s worth noting due to the vast amount of evidence of crimes committed in Europe, for example, this is not out of the realm of possibility. 

However, if Iran’s failure to cooperate with international human rights mechanisms in the past is any indication, it is safe to say that any communication from the ICC would be met with great indignation. And while the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) could discuss the human rights situation and submit a referral to the Office of the Prosecutor, it would more than likely receive a veto. A discussion of referring the situation to the ICC however could bring more attention to the issue and lead to opportunities elsewhere.

There is some confusion over this issue, as Iran often cites themselves as a ‘signatory of the Rome Statute’ which although not false, is misleading, as the State has never ratified the text. 

This is not a unique posture to the Rome Statute and aligns quite well with similar State language around attested compliance with international human rights mechanisms–despite the tremendous amount of evidence to the contrary. 

Domestic Litigation –The United States and Elsewhere 

While much narrower in scope, there are an array of domestic litigation tools across the globe available to prosecute perpetrators of specific human rights abuses like, for example, the recruitment of child soldiers or torture. By way of illustration, the United States’ Child Soldiers Recruitment Accountability Act of 2008 permits the United States jurisdiction over an alleged offender of child soldier recruitment found within the territory of the United States, irrespective of the nationality of the alleged offender. This is particularly relevant in the case of Iran. There is substantial evidence of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) recruiting child soldiers for direct participation in hostilities in Syria. A 2017 Human Rights Watch report documented Afghan children, as young as 14, recruited for combat in the Iran-backed Fatemiyoun division. HRA has also collected evidence of IRGC-recruited child soldiers killed in combat. Recruitment of child soldiers is not only punishable under the United States’ Child Soldiers Recruitment Accountability Act, it is a war crime under international law (which presents its own array of accountability mechanisms). There should be strengthened coordination between Iranian and Syrian human rights groups documenting the use of child soldiers in Syria. Such coordination would surely provide strengthened evidence and in turn, would produce heightened support for accountability efforts. 

In keeping with the example of the United States, the Torture Victim Protection Act also offers a strong set of language that enables citizens and noncitizens to file suits against perpetrators of foreign States who, acting in an official capacity, tortured and/or committed extrajudicial killings outside of the United States. Another strong US legal tool is the Alien Tort Statute (ATS). The ATS is a federal law that gives U.S. courts jurisdiction to hear lawsuits filed by noncitizens on violations (like the TVPA the violations must have been committed in an official capacity) of torture, extrajudicial killing, forced disappearance, crimes against humanity, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, prolonged arbitrary detention, genocide, war crimes, slavery, and state-sponsored sexual violence and rape. 

It is of note that these are a mere few examples of several that could merit domestic litigation in the United States. Jurisdictions across the world have a wide range of similar legislation. 

Why does such an extensive accountability gap remain?

In seeking an answer to this question, it seems necessary to recall the remarks of the Special Rapporteur.

“There appears to be a State policy of intimidating, prosecuting, or silencing those who call for accountability, justice, and truth…”

With such a strong machine of State-sponsored repression against those seeking accountability, one can understand how a cycle of impunity continues. Human rights activists and lawyers are tortured, detained, and even executed, and well-founded fear of reprisal is high. The international community must be committed to holding individual violators accountable. The tools are there and the documentation is plentiful. The establishment of the above listed and numerous other existing tools sends a strong united message. The message however has not been fully received. The tools must be used. Their implementation must be broadened. States and interstate institutions must work with civil society to discuss strategic and creative pathways to end the egregious abuse dealt by individuals enjoying impunity inside of Iran. The international community must move beyond blanketed calls for accountability and look to specific and practical steps forward.  

**This article in no way seeks to be exhaustive. Rather, it aims to shed light on potential paths forward and spark conversation. HRA welcomes, engages in, and recognizes the need for creative and strategic discussions in light of the ongoing cycle of impunity in Iran. 

For more on HRA’s international accountability efforts contact Senior Advocacy Coordinator, Skylar Thompson at [email protected]

Evidence of excessive use of force against protesters in Isfahan

“Let Isfahan breathe, give Zayandeh-rud back”

Beginning Friday, November 19, thousands of civilians assembled and protested in the dried-up stretches of Iran’s river Zayandeh-rud. These protests come just months after protests erupted in Iran’s southern province of Khuzestan over resource mismanagement leading to water shortages and economic disparity. Protesters in Khuzestan, and those that stood in solidarity with them across the country, were met with violent suppression including lethal force and mass arbitrary detentions. Protesters in Isfahan now face a similar struggle over shared concerns. “Water, or rather lack thereof, remains a recurring theme across Iran. Years of mismanagement have culminated in dried-up riverbeds as well as the inability to adequately water crops or livestock which is directly affecting livelihoods. Without attention to the root cause of unrest, one can expect these events to continue. Rather than meeting protesters with barbarous levels of violence and empty promises, Iranian officials must hear the pleas of the people and seek a solution. Not a short-term solution that will surely lead to greater disparity, but real tangible change,” says Skylar Thompson, HRA Senior Advocacy Coordinator. 

Excessive use of force

As unrest in Isfahan continues into the tenth day, protesters are met with excessive use of force by police and security forces. Videos sent directly to HRA along with in-depth investigation over the past 10 days reveal the use of widespread and inhumane suppression tactics by police, IRGC, Basij, and the intelligence ministry. 

Police were recorded making what can arguably be seen as threats. One video shows police urging “those who came to watch, leave now. There are enemies among you […] Don’t make water an excuse, please leave this place quickly. […] you don’t want anyone to be hurt.” While another text message sent to citizens in the area from the Deputy of Crime Prevention of Justice of Isfahan Province read: “Dear fellow-citizen, Considering your presence at the location of unrest, and the possibility of being injured, please quickly leave and avoid passing through this area.”

Several videos capture audible evidence of live ammunition.  In one instance, a woman can be seen seemingly lying lifeless on the ground. Live ammunition can be heard nearby as crowds shout, “They shot her! Pick her up!” Such tactics fly in the face of Iran’s obligations under international human rights law, namely the right to life. Several videos, like those from which the still images below are derived, depict protesters having been shot in the face while seemingly unarmed. Another video (video 1) shows an individual bleeding heavily from his face as he attempts to clean a wound. HRA condemns in the strongest terms the use of live ammunition, including bird shots, against protesters posing no imminent threat to life or security. 

The images below were taken from a video independently verified by HRA. An unarmed individual in the one video is heard saying “It was the police” as they hold a wound over their injured eye. HRA-SJ (HRA Spreading Justice Initiative), through a thorough examination of video and photo evidence,  additionally confirmed the use of tasers, tear gas, water cannons, and batons against protesters in Isfahan from November 19-November 29. The use of additional means cannot be ruled out at this time. 

video 1

In another video (video 2), police can be seen storming a group of unarmed protesters, seemingly beating those that did not immediately disperse, live ammunition can also be heard. 

video 2

At least 19 of the many injured protesters are hospitalized due to injuries to the eye, as seen in the images above. Official reports indicate 2 of the injured are in critical condition. The injuries are further evidence of excessive use of force against protesters. In solidarity with those injured, people around Iran have posted photos of themselves with bandages covering their eyes.

Arbitrary arrests

Since the outbreak of unrest on November 19, HRA-SJ has documented the arrest of 214 protesters, including 13 minors. A number of arrestees were released upon agreeing to discontinue protest activity. The identities of these individuals were documented and their identification documents were confiscated prior to release. While a number were released, others were transferred to Isfahan prison, Khomeini Shahr prison, and the Women’s prison of Isfahan. The whereabouts of some detainees remain unknown at the time of writing. It is possible that these individuals are being held in a security detention center. Officials should immediately make known the whereabouts of all of those within their custody as provided for under international law and take steps to release all individuals arbitrarily detained as a result of their participation in protests. 

Call for accountability 

HRA is deeply disturbed by the ongoing situation of violence in Isfahan. The ongoing use of excessive force amounting to a loss of life and unnecessary injury is of serious concern. According to the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, “Governments shall ensure that arbitrary or abusive use of force and firearms by law enforcement officials is punished as a criminal offense under their law.” In light of Iran’s unwillingness to ensure this type of accountability, HRA is calling on the international community to condemn the ongoing use of force against civilians and ensure those responsible are held accountable. 

Reports of internet disruptions/shutdowns must also be condemned. Iran’s repeated use of internet disruptions/shutdowns is a deliberate attempt to mask the true extent of violence used against protesters and disrupt the free flow of information. Internet disruptions continue at the time of writing. 

“As we close out a month of remembrance for the lives lost at the hands of Iranian officials during the November 2019 protests, the international community must stand with Iranians in demanding justice and reignite the call for accountability in efforts to disrupt the cycle of violence against protesters.” 

*HRA-SJ independently verified the validity of all videos included in this report.

Victims of November 2019 protests call for concrete action ahead of the anniversary

NOVEMBER 15, 2019: A sudden and substantial hike in the cost of fuel sparks unrest across Iran. Individuals across the country pour into the streets in what soon became mass protests covering a reported 104 cities across Iran.

As the anniversary of the November protests approaches, HRA has spoken with Iranians calling for concrete action against those responsible for violent crackdowns against protesters including arbitrary and incommunicado detention, illegal use of force, and torture among other serious violations. For nearly two years, perpetrators have, for the most part, enjoyed widespread impunity. Domestically, some have even seemingly been rewarded. Indeed, individuals such as now-President Ebrahim Raisi, a known and serious violator, have risen to top positions of power. 

Soheila, a 45-year-old mother whose son was shot in the November 2019 protests, highlights the shortcomings of the judiciary in Iran, telling HRA, “I hope that accountability will mean that next time, my child, instead of taking to the streets, can work through established pathways to hold corrupt people accountable for their actions.”

November 2019 saw the deaths of several hundred Iranians  (227 were verified by HRA) in what is arguably a state-sanctioned arbitrary deprivation of life. In addition over 7,100 were arbitrarily detained, some remain detained today. Although the violations noted above have been extensively documented, little has been done to hold perpetrators accountable. 

Figure 1: reported November 2019 protest points -black denotes locations where the killing of protester(s) was reported  (Human Rights Activists in Iran)

Elika, 25, told HRA, “Without accountability for violations that occurred in November 2019, the cycle of repression and violence will not end. Those that intend to perpetrate future abuse [on us] need to see accountability. Maybe then they will take a moment to think before pulling the trigger.”  In a recent post in the Atlantic Council IranSource blog, Skylar Thompson, HRA Senior Advocacy Coordinator, stated similarly, “Without concrete action to fight the plague of impunity that covers Iran, these violent events will only continue to occur and the Iranian people will continue to suffer.”

Iran has proven unwilling to investigate and prosecute those responsible through domestic judicial frameworks. The unwillingness is paired with the fact that Iran’s judiciary is in no way impartial and is in fact led by the very perpetrators responsible for the noted violations. Unfortunately, violations of fair trial standards have become the status quo. 

When asked what accountability looks like to him, Hafez, 22, told HRA, “They should handcuff the perpetrators. […]. They should be prosecuted in a public court and imprisoned.” He continued, “Once handcuffed, perpetrators should have to look the victim’s mother in the face to calm her heart.” Nazanin, 32, told HRA that accountability, in her view “is [the Islamic Republic] honestly and openly admitting wrongdoing.” 

HRA has identified 54 individual and seven institutional violators connected to the November 2019 protests. It Is noteworthy that a number of those violators have also been complicit in numerous additional acts of repression against protesters including in 1988, 2020 (protests over the shooting down of Ukrainian airliner), 2021 (protests over resource mismanagement in Khuzestan), and many instances in between. This repeated action is a direct consequence of the lack of accountability. 

The following section lists notable individuals documented by HRA as responsible for repeated serious and widespread rights violations. Extensive and credible documentation is readily available. HRA calls on the international community to hear the pleas of Iranians like Hafez, Nazanin, and Elika and utilize available documentation to take concrete action against those responsible. 

*For a more in-depth look at the listed violators select a name and be directed to a violator profile that includes several data points including an overview of violations, employment history, as well as additional evidentiary documentation. 



Mojtaba Raei

Special Governor, Najafabad City of Isfahan Province

Deputy Governor of Isfahan

Roham Bakhsh Habibi

The police commander of Fars Province

Lotfollah Dezhkam 

Representative of the Supreme Leader, Fars Province 

Friday Imam of Shiraz

Leila Vaseghi
Governor of Quds City

Jamal Alami Nisi
Governor of Ahvaz 

Chairman of the Ahvaz City Security Council

Masoumeh Khanfari
Governor of Karoun City

Nik-Mohammad Balouch-Zehi
Director-General, Information and Communications Technology Department of Sistan and Baluchestan Province

Seyed-Vahid Haghanian aka “Vahid” or “Sardar (General) Vahid” 

Executive and Special Affairs Deputy of the Islamic Republic Supreme Leader’s office

Saeed Jalili
Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council


Ali-akbar Javidan

Kermanshah Police Chief

Hossein Rahimi
Head of Tehran Police Forces

Hossein AshtariFard

Commander of the police force of the Islamic Republic

Gholamreza Jafari

From November 12, 2019, to now: Commander of the Hormozgan Police Force 

Hassan Karami
Command of the Special Unit of the Police Force

Mohammad-Hossein Babakalani
Retired Police Force

Saeed Motaharizadeh 

North Khorasan Police Chief

Reza Papey
The police commander of Mahshahr City

Abdolreza Nazeri
Commander of the Kerman Police Force

Ruhollah Geravandi
Dezful Police Commander

Manouchehr Amanollahi 

Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari Police Commander 


Kioumars Heydari

Brigadier General IRGC

Hossein Taeb

Former Head of the IRGC Intelligence Organization

Hassan Shahvarpour
Commander of the Khuzestan Provincial IRGC force (Valiasr IRGC base)

Masoud Khorramnia
Second Brigadier General (IRGC) 

Commander-in-chief of West Azerbaijan province

Mohammad-Esmaeil Kowsari
Senior Commander, IRGC

Hossein Salami

Commander-in-Chief of the IRGC

Mohammad-Reza Yazdi

Senior Commander of IRGC 

Gholamreza Soleimani Farsani
Commander of Sahib al-Zaman IRGC in Isfahan province

Gholam-hossein Gheibparvar
Commander of the Basij

Deputy Commander of the IRGC, Imam Ali’s HQ

Mousa Ghazanfar-Abadi
The former head of the Islamic Revolutionary Tribunals of Tehran


Heydar Asiabi

Senior Judicial Official, Judiciary of the Islamic Republic

Alireza Aghajari
Public and Revolutionary Prosecutor of Pardis city, the former prosecutor of Mahshahr city

Peyman Samadi

Prisoner Supervisor in Ward 9, Evin Prison 

Deputy Director of the 2nd Brigade in Fashafoyeh Prison

Mehdi Mohammadi

Deputy Prosecutor of Boroujerd

Hamid Golinejad
Head of Branch 101 of the 2nd Criminal Court of Urmia

Ali Esfahani
Public and Revolutionary Prosecutor of Isfahan Province

Ali Zare
General and Revolutionary Prosecutor of Najafabad city in Isfahan province

Yahya Jafari 

Judicial Official, Judiciary of the Islamic Republic

Mohammad-javad Heshmati Mohazzab

Senior Judicial Official, Judiciary of the Islamic Republic

Mohammad-Hossein Sadeghi 

Public and Revolutionary Prosecutor of Kermanshah Province

Hamid Mohammadi
Head of Evin Prison 

Mansour Mohammadi Khabbaz
The public and revolutionary prosecutor of Dezful

Abbas Hosseini-Pouya 

Public and Revolutionary Prosecutor of Khuzestan Province

Hamid Asgaripour
Shahriar County Public Prosecutor and Revolution

Mahamad-Reza Amouzad Khalili

Head of Branch 24 of the Revolutionary Court of Tehran

Seyed-Ahmad Zargar
Judge of the Islamic Revolutionary Tribunal of Tehran

Iman Afshari

Head of Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court of Tehran

Mohammad Mahdi Mahmoodi
Deputy Chief Justice of the General and Revolutionary Courts of Shiraz

Head of the 2nd Criminal Court

Judge of Branch 101 of the 2nd Criminal Court of Shiraz

Ali Alghasi-Mehr
The general prosecutor of Tehran


Hossein Shariatmadari
Kayhan Institute

Abdolali Ali-Asgari
Head of the Islamic Republic Broadcasting Organization (IRIB)

Ameneh-Sadat Zabihpour

For media inquiries contact HRA Senior Advocacy Coordinator, Skylar Thompson [email protected]

HRA Presents Spreading Justice at HRC48 Side-Event

On September 21st, a number of prominent human rights organizations, including HRA, Impact Iran, HURIDOCS, and the Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation, hosted a virtual discussion in the margins of the 48th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council on how online databases can help monitor human rights in Iran and support accountability efforts.

In an announcement of the event, Impact Iran stated, ​​” In recent years, human rights organizations have developed a range of online tools that have strengthened the capacities of rights defenders to advance evidence-based reporting and advocacy aimed at generating a culture of accountability and transparency in pursuit of the realization of human rights for all persons.”

United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran Dr. Javaid Rehman delivered the event’s opening remarks, in which he highlighted the important work of the organizations represented by the panel. He mentioned Abdorrahman Boroumand Center’s OMID Memorial, the Spreading Justice’s Initiative by Human Rights Activists in Iran, and Impact Iran’s Iran Rights Index, which is a culmination of work by the Impact Iran Secretariat and coalition members including HRA.

“The individual characteristics of the different databases that are the topic of discussion today… all indicate that civil society organizations have clear goals in their well-coordinated documentation efforts,” Rehman stated. “Each of these databases serves a valuable goal for public information advocacy, memorialization, or support accountability mechanisms.”

In demonstrating how HRA’s Spreading Justice database can contribute to accountability efforts, panelist and HRA Senior Advocacy Coordinator Skylar Thompson outlined the functions and goals of the project.  

“Spreading justice is a database of Iranian Human Rights violators, both individual and institutional violators,” Thompson said. “This database, which is available in both English and Farsi, currently contains over 250 profiles, ranging from Iranian president Ibraham Raisi himself to lesser-known violators that continually commit heinous acts, and yet fly almost silently under the radar.” 

On the functions of the database, Thompson said,  “If an individual were doing research on an individual victim’s case, they could, for example, search Nazanin Ratcliffe and find all violators associated with her case.”

The profiles also include detailed legal reviews prepared by experts in international human rights law. HRA collects information from open-source research, and through its wide network of volunteers inside Iran. Volunteers receive training aimed at strengthening organizational documentation capacity, which includes online security, diversity and inclusion, neutrality, informed consent. 

“The information that is collected through this network is extremely important to our work,” Thompson said. “It also gives us unparalleled access to victims.”

On the use of the database, Thompson stated that there is a real need for governments to work alongside civil society, in their efforts to hold perpetrators accountable, and added that this was a core motivation behind the development of Spreading Justice.  

She continued, “If we can begin to close the accountability gap in Iran, we will begin to see a disruption in the continuous cycle of abuse,” Thompson said. “The truth is that the international community has a number of tools available to hold perpetrators of serious human rights violations accountable, particularly when domestic judicial remedies are unavailable, such as is the case in Iran. The use of these tools is lacking.”

It is Time that Iran be Held Accountable

Last month the world turned its attention to Iran for its seemingly arbitrary transfer of a detained British-Australian academic. Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who was detained in September 2018 and is serving a ten-year sentence, was moved from the notorious Evin Prison to an unspecified
location. When Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) released the report, nearly every major media publication across the globe once again jumped to denounce her detention.Widespread speculation as to Moore-Gilbert’s whereabouts ensued.

As a human rights professional who focuses on Iran, it was gratifying to see such a swift and appropriate response. However, what about the countless grave and horrific human rightsviolations that happen every day in this country? Violations that are so numerous that they have become seemingly rote.

In the week following Moore-Gilbert’s transfer, peaceful protestors outside Iran’s Ministry of Petroleum were violently attacked by Regime Security Forces. In the month of October, at least 130 Iranians were arrested for activities related to their political or ideological beliefs; 83 of which involved the detention of individuals participating in peaceful gatherings related to the ongoing Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict.

Iran carried out 19 hangings in the month of October alone, sentencing an additional 8 to that same fate throughout the month.

At least 12 members of the Baháʼí religious minority were barred from entering university based solely on their religious beliefs. One man received 80 lashes for converting to Christianity; a thief was sentenced to having his hand amputated.

Iranian courts tried more than 70 political cases which resulted in convictions that totaled 295 years in prison and 2,590 lashes. A cleric was summoned to court for suggesting there was no problem with women riding a bicycle, an activity for which all women in the country are banned.
Two women, who wrote a letter requesting the resignation of the Supreme Leader, were each sentenced to 33 years in prison. A teacher was sentenced to 45 lashes for drawing a cartoon.

This list is by no means exhaustive.

These violations are not a secret. HRANA, the very source that initially reported on Moore-Gilbert’s move, reported and continues to report on the numerous human rights violations happening daily in Iran against Iranians, as well as dual and foreign nationals. There remains
little to no response.

Why is this?
I do not have the answer to that question, but I do know the differences these cases bear. The violations listed above are against Iranian citizens; Moore-Gilbert is a foreigner. Her case is, therefore, more appealing to the press it garners a more widespread response – and outcry.

I’m reminded of a quote from Howard Bakerville, a young American who famously became a martyr of Iran’s Constitutional Revolution; he once said, “The only difference between me and these people is my place of birth, and that is not a big difference.” Today I fear there are times, unacceptably so, that this is the difference between life and death, between respect for rights and deprivation thereof. Will the world only shine the light on Iran when a Westerner is tangled in its web? Under international human rights law, States have a duty to respect, protect, and fulfill the rights of those within their jurisdiction. It’s time that Iran be held accountable to its own citizens just as it is to those dual and foreign nationals that find themselves trapped within the confines of a state where deprivation of fundamental human rights continues to be the norm.

Moore-Gilbert has since been returned to Evin Prison. Her return, much like her move, was documented extensively. The reason for her move remains unknown

Skylar Thompson is a Senior Advocacy Coordinator with Human Rights Activists in Iran (HRAI). For inquiries please
contact email: [email protected]