Mutua serves on international tribunal
Published: Sunday, March 3, 2013
Updated: Sunday, March 3, 2013 12:03
Makau Mutua, dean of SUNY Buffalo Law School, served as one of the six judges on the international tribunal that heard testimony in October in The Hague, Netherlands.
The tribunal has finally issued a verdict against the Iranian government for crimes against humanity and gross violations of human rights.
During the ’80s, the Islamic Republic of Iran arrested, imprisoned, tortured and killed thousands of Iranian citizens whom the government claimed were opponents of the state of Islam.
Only recently has their government even acknowledged these mass executions occurred.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran carried out systematic executions, torture, detention and rapes of suspected or imagined government opponents from 1981-88,” Mutua said in an email.
It has been estimated in that time over 20,000 political prisoners, men and women – as well as underage detainees – were sentenced to death by execution, according to The Guardian, anewspaper in the United Kingdom.
The peak of this mass slaughter took place in the summer of 1988 when more than 5,000 people were killed in a short span of time throughout prisons all over Iran.
“Iranian prisons, especially the notorious Evin Prison, were the sites of summary trials and executions of ‘non-believers’ and ‘enemies of the state,’” Mutua said. “Women were routinely raped in these prisons. Men were killed and buried in mass graves, which is not permitted in Islam.”
The tribunal heard distressing testimonies of such atrocities from 19 witnesses during the three-day proceedings. They also heard from the victims themselves.
“Hearing the testimonies of the victims was gut-wrenching,” Mutua said. “It’s probably one of the toughest things I have had to do. To hear the stories of brutal torture, rape and executions was chilling.”
The tribunal considered a 419-page report formulated by the Truth Commission that encapsulated the entire investigation; it included almost 75 witnesses who told stories of torture, rape and murder.
“The Truth Commission was a truth-telling device,” Mutua said. “Its purpose is to create a moral account and record of what happened – who were the victims and their victimizers, why the violations took place and by whom. This account is the basis of future investigations and hopefully prosecutions of those culpable.”
The Iranian tribunal consisted of international jurists who have expertise in human rights and international law.
Aside from being the dean of the law school and a SUNY distinguished professor, Mutua is a vice president of the American Society of International Law and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
It because of his background as a prominent figure on the international human rights scene that Mutua was asked to serve as one of the judges to look into these charges against Iran’s Islamic leaders.
Mutua hopes this verdict will lead to prosecution of those responsible and begin a process of trying to compensate the victims.
“Thousands of Iranians of all backgrounds were victimized by the state. These abuses were not secret, but the state never acknowledged them, or prosecuted officials who carried them out,” Mutua said. “We are pressing the international community, including the United Nations and other regional organizations, to put pressure on Iran to bring the perpetrators to justice.”
Mutua and the rest of the judges on the tribunal stated in their verdict released on Feb. 5 that it now falls on the Iranian government to proceed forward in taking responsibility for “substantial and widespread violations of human rights.”
The verdict holds what took place in Iranian prisons during an entire decade was without question in violation of established international law and the Islamic Republic of Iran should be held fully accountable for what they characterized as “systematic and widespread commission of crimes against humanity.”
“One wonders why human beings can be so cruel and evil to one another,” Mutua said. “It boggles the mind and shocks the human conscience.”