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Unprecedented Verdict: Swedish Court Holds Iranian Official Accountable for Egregious Human Rights Violations

Confirmation of Life Sentence for Hamid Nouri Sparks Hope for Expanded Pursuit of Justice Under Universal Jurisdiction

The recent affirmation of the life sentence against former Islamic Republic of Iran official Hamid Nouri by a Swedish court appeals court signifies a crucial step towards justice and should serve as a precedent for holding more Iranian officials accountable for their human rights violations through the principle of universal jurisdiction.

“This verdict deserves global commendation, serving as a beacon of hope,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).

“Given the Islamic Republic’s refusal to hold any officials accountable for even the most severe human rights crimes, we urge more leaders to follow suit and pursue justice under universal jurisdiction against officials involved in human rights atrocities in Iran,” he added.

Nouri, 62, served as the assistant prosecutor of Gohardasht Prison in the city of Karaj during the executions of thousands of political prisoners across Iran, including at Gohardasht prison, during the summer of 1988.

The victims were sent to the gallows by “death commissions” composed of a small group of clerics who sent thousands of prisoners—who had already been tried and convicted and were serving their prison sentences—to the gallows based on their responses to questions regarding their religious and political beliefs.

The Iranian authorities did not return the victims’ bodies to their families, nor did they disclose the burial locations, most of which were unmarked graves. Families of the victims who continue to seek answers let alone justice are severely persecuted in the Islamic Republic.

Among those involved in the commissions was the current President of Iran, Ebrahim Raisi. In July 2021, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Javaid Rehman, called for an impartial inquiry into the state-ordered mass executions in 1988 in Iran and the roles Iranian officials played in those executions—a call strongly supported by CHRI.

“Nouri’s trial has provided a documented account of the Islamic Republic’s mass atrocities through the testimonies of numerous witnesses present at the 1988 mass executions,” Ghaemi said.

“Given the opportunity, many more victims and witnesses could testify against other Iranian officials today,” he added.

Unlike His Victims, Nouri Given Full Due Process in Swedish Judicial System

As per the indictment presented by Swedish public prosecutors, Hamid Nouri faced accusations of “intentionally killing, alongside other perpetrators, a significant number of prisoners sympathetic to various left-wing groups, deemed apostates,” alongside charges of “crimes against humanity.”

Nouri’s trial in a Stockholm District Court in 2022, following his 2019 arrest in the city, concluded with a conviction for “murder” and “serious crimes against international law,” under the principle of universal jurisdiction.

Both the trial and subsequent appeal process, commencing on January 11, 2023, spanned nearly nine months. The preliminary trial encompassed over 100 sessions, featuring 34 plaintiffs and 26 witnesses who provided harrowing testimonies.

In the Islamic Republic, activists and dissidents routinely face prosecution and imprisonment for peaceful actions, while officials involved in mass atrocities not only enjoy immunity, they ascend to positions of power. The Nouri case signifies the first instance of an Iranian official being tried and convicted for involvement in crimes against humanity.

In stark contrast to the Iranian judicial system’s disregard for internationally recognized due process standards, Nouri had access to legal representation, made public statements, and used personal digital devices throughout his trial.

Second publication by courtesy of Center for Human Rights in Iran


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