Tom Ridge: Past crimes of the Iranian regime must be addressed at UN General Assembly

Tom Ridge, the first Homeland Security Secretary and Pennsylvania governor, wrote an article in The Hill about the presence of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the annual UN General Assembly in New York. 

He highlights that this is the perfect opportunity to challenge Rouhani on the appalling human rights record of Iran and question his “moderate” status.

Ridge said that the incident that is in particular focus is the audio recording of the late Hossein-Ali Montazeri who chastised four other officials for being involved in the 1988 massacre of political prisoners in which more than 30,000 dissidents were killed.

His “long-suppressed tirade upholds this narrative,” said Ridge, “specifically confirming some of the most shocking details of the proceedings, including the execution of teenage girls and pregnant women.” Ridge points out that many were condemned for “little more than expressions of sympathy for members of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI or MEK)”. This group is the “largest and best-organized pro-democracy opposition movement in Iran that promotes a secular, non-nuclear republic in Iran”.

On the 1988 recording Mostafa Pourmohammadi was heard. He is the justice minister in the Rouhani administration and was the Intelligence Ministry’s representative on the Tehran “death commission”. This commission held trials that only lasted a few minutes to decide whether local prisoners should be executed. On the recording, Pourmohammadi was heard defending activities that Montazeri said were the “worst crime of the Islamic Republic”.

Pourmohammadi said to provincial officials that he was proud to have played a role in the massacre. Ridge highlights that he is unapologetic and unashamed to have played a role in this crime against humanity and the fact he is now justice minister is ironic and a farce. Moreover, being Rouhani’s personal choice for this position also proves that Obama and other Western policymakers’ view that he is a moderate is false.

Furthermore, the Iranian regime has ignored Security Council resolutions that ban missile tests, and they continue to support terrorism. These are not moderate actions.

Ridge stated that the international community and U.S. Congress should have emphasised to President Obama that the Iranian regime cannot be reasoned with regarding issues such as human rights abuses. He said this should have been obvious following the first two years of Rouhani’s presidency when more executions were taking place than ever. In 2015 alone around 1,000 people were hanged, and for reasons such as “enmity against God” – the same charge that caused many of the 1988 victims to lose their lives.

“It is difficult to understand how the Obama administration failed to notice or elected to ignore recent human rights abuses. Whatever the case, the growing knowledge of Tehran’s past abuses cannot be so easily ignored, especially since the Rouhani administration’s complicity in the 1988 massacre is by no means limited to the justice minister.”

The MEK with its extensive intelligence network inside Iran was able to release the names of 60 people who can be connected to the massacre of political prisoners. These 60 people all hold important positions whether in the Rouhani administration, other government bodies, financial institutions, and so on. Ridge said: “These revelations make it abundantly clear that the current Iranian government has in no fashion moved away from its past crimes against humanity – crimes for which no one has been held accountable. Indeed, those who participated willingly, even proudly like Mostafa Pourmohammadi, have been rewarded.”

He adds that the “complacency” of the UN General Assembly and its American hosts have gone unnoticed for many years, but it cannot happen this year. He pointed out that since the release of the audio recording, there is a bigger awareness of the lack of justice for the tens of thousands of people who died. Therefore, the Iranian people and the rest of the world are more interested to see if Obama and his administration will once again ignore the crimes against humanity that Rouhani and his government are responsible for.