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The third deliberation seminar on the mass execution of Iranian political prisoners by the Islamic Republic of Iran during 1980s

The deliberation seminar to reflect the mass killings of the Iranian political prisoners during the 1980s was held on Saturday, 19 September 2009 in London. This was the third seminar of its kind addressing the international community in English language which followed two previously held events in Stockholm, in Swedish and English languages, in 1998 and 2008 respectively.
This year’s London seminar was a joint effort by “Association of Iranian Political Prisoners (In Exile)” and “Prisoners of Conscience Appeal Fund”; A UK based charity organisation which supports political prisoners and those persecuted by their totalitarian states. The seminar which was chaired by Sir Henry Brooke, a retired Barrister and judge and now a mediator, was well received by approximately hundred and eighty Iranian and British guests.

The speakers consisted of Masoud Raouf, an Iranian film producer and director,
Shokoufeh Sakhi, a political prisoner in Iran during the 1980s, Jonathan Heawood, journalist and director of “The English Centre of International Pen”, Nazanin Afshin Jam, co-founder and president of “Stop Child Executions”, Payam Akhavan, Professor of international law at McGill University in Montreal, and finally, Gisou Shakeri, revolutionary and exiled recording artist and singer.

The participants were welcomed by Lynn Carter, director of “Prisoners of Conscience Appeal Fund”.
The seminar was opened by Dariosh Afshar, an “Association of Iranian Political Prisoners (In Exile)” activist, who delivered a summary of what became of the Iranian political prisoners during the 1980s and the crimes committed against humanity by the rulers of Iran during this period. He then explained the blatantly evident atrocities of the Islamic Republic, witnessed by millions of people around the globe, against the protestors during the recent uprising of the Iranian people and the necessity of a call for an international criminal tribunal against the Islamic Republic of Iran for its crimes during its 31 years of rule.

The next speaker was Sir Henry Brooke, Chairman of PoC’s board of trustees. He expressed his view upon social and political freedom and called for the global end to the phenomenon of prisoners of conscience. He condemned the persecution and death by execution of humans for their political beliefs and demanded the unconditional release of all political prisoners in Iran.
Later, during the seminar’s Q and A session, he welcomed the call for an international tribunal, akin to that of Bertrand Russell’s Tribunal, against the Islamic Republic for its crimes against humanity.

The next speaker was exiled film producer and director, Masoud Raouf. He explained his reasons and motives behind the makings of one of his films “The tree that remembers”. He described how he longed to understand and evaluate the emotions going through the minds of an Iranian refugee student in Canada, before he took his own life by committing suicide.
In this documentary, which won the silver award for best Canadian documentary at the “Hot Docs” festival in Toronto, Shokoufeh Sakhi, who was also a political prisoner in Iran during the 1980s, helps Masoud by her appearance, to reflect this agonizing tragedy which symbolises the dreadful and grievous times and lives of Iranian refugees before the eyes of the international community.

This 50 minute documentary was screened after Masoud Raouf’s talks.

Shokoufeh Sakhi followed from Masoud Sakhi. She explained her bitter and painful experience of spending 8 years of her life in Islamic Republic’s horrific prisons. She spoke of agonising times, particularly when she heard the news of her cellmates’ and comrades’ executions and how to date the memories of such times still haunt her and will continue to do so, for the rest of her life.
Shokoufeh continued by describing the repression and the mass killings of the opponents of the regime held as political prisoners during the 1980s and compared that to the recent crack down of the mass demonstrators. She emphasised on the continuation of the struggle and campaign against the crimes committed by the Islamic Republic in order to prevent another human tragedy similar to that of the 1980s.

After a short break, the seminar resumed its session with Jonathan Heawood’s speech. As the director of the English Centre of International pen, he made his emphasis upon condemning Khomeini’s “Fatwa” (Islamic deed) and the Islamic proclamation issued to take the life of Salman Rushdi for the publication of his book “Satanic Verses”. He explained the reactionary and backward ideology behind the fundamentalist thinking implemented by extremist Islamic groups and states, and condemned the appeasement policies of the western states towards such groups and states, in particular, the policies adopted by the British Government. He stressed upon the continuation of campaign to safeguard free expression and speech. By making reference to the mass genocide of the political prisoners, while condemning such atrocities, he expressed that such atrocities would continue to repeat for as long as free expression and speech are not constitutionalised within societies.

The next speaker was Nazanin Afshin Jam, international Human Rights activist and president of “Stop Child Executions” foundation. She also talked about the crimes committed by the Islamic Republic during the past 31 years, in particular, the numerous executions of the under 18s in Iran, and how the constitution of the Islamic Republic has made provision for this inhumane act within its laws. She spoke of execution of the prisoners under the age of consent during the mass killings of the 80s and the necessity to globally abolish death by execution in general. She stressed upon an international campaign to stop all executions.
By making reference to the recent killings by the Islamic Republic, Nazanin Afshin Jam expressed her concerns that the recent persecutions of the protestors on the streets of Iran could lead to another mass killing of the dissent in Iran.

The final speaker who took the podium was Payam Akhavan, Professor of International Law at McGill University in Montreal. He illustrated the illegal process of prosecution of the political prisoners during the 1980s. He also explained the role of “Death Commission” during the “Court hearings” which led to the mass executions of the political prisoners and named a few of its members.

He also explained the political and legal obstacles of prosecuting the Islamic Republic for its crimes against humanity within the international courts of law, and expressed that for as long as the western governments have vested interest in their dealings with the Islamic Republic, this would be out of reach. However, he remained optimistic that the day would come when the perpetrators of these crimes would face an international tribunal for their role in crimes against humanity.

Akhavan gave a comprehensive explanation of the possibilities of staging an international tribunal akin to that of “Russell’s Tribunal” of the American Government for its crimes during the Vietnam War. As the first UN War Crimes prosecutor at The Hague, He shared his valuable experience and explained how it would be possible to call for an inquest in tandem with a tribunal in order to expose and condemn the Islamic Republic of Iran for its crimes not only during the 1980s, but during its 31 years of suppressive and inhumane rule in Iran.

The session of Q&A between the audience and the speakers was followed after the last speaker.

In concluding part of the seminar, Gissoo Shakeri, a progressive exiled artist, performed a few ballads which were enthusiastically received by the audience.

To see some of the photos of this event, please click here.

The movie clips of this event will soon be placed on “Association of Iranian political prisoners (In exile)” and the Prisoners of Conscience Appeal Fund websites, where you will be able to see interviews conducted by the BBC Persian and Aljazeera TV with some of the speakers.

We should like to thank all our speakers for making this such an interesting and memorable event. Thanks too to Sir Henry Brooke, Chairman of PoC’s board of trustees, for moderating the event with such efficiency and sympathy and an impeccable sense of timing which was totally unfazed by complications resulting from London Transport’s weekend repair programme and road closures on the Embankment.


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