The tribunal provides a mandate to a group of renowned international lawyers on behalf of the victims’ community and the public to investigate human rights violations by Iran during a wave of national protests in November 2019, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of unarmed protestors.
On 15 November 2019, following a sudden spike in fuel prices, nationwide protests broke out across Iran.
Protests were largely peaceful, but in certain cities, public and private property incurred damage.
At its peak, from 16 November, the government imposed a near-total shutdown of the internet and conducted a brutal crackdown on protestors. Police, security and military forces shot and arrested protestors, while the authorities restricted access to information.
Reports of the killing of protestors emerged from the early hours of the protests. Although the government has admitted responsibility for 225 deaths, media and human rights organisations have reported a death toll of between 304 and 1,500.
After hearing evidence and deliberation, the panel will determine whether crimes under international law were committed by Iranian state forces and paramilitaries during the protests. The panel will also append the perpetrators in its final judgment.
The tribunal will consist of co-counsel, headed by Hamid Sabi, the London-based human rights lawyer who served on the China Tribunal, Iran Tribunal and ongoing Uyghur Tribunal, and a panel of up to seven independent members that will convene on 10-12 February 2021 in The Hague.
The Aban Tribunal – named after the month in the official calendar of Iran when the atrocities occurred – will hear evidence from victims and expert witnesses during three days of hearings.
The tribunal’s judgment will be published in April 2021.
Announcing the establishment of the tribunal in London, on the anniversary of the protests, Shadi Sadr, executive director of Justice for Iran said: “The establishment of this tribunal is urgent and necessary. When the international community turns a blind eye to such atrocities, those who know what happened have a moral responsibility to bring about justice and accountability."
Mahmood Amiri-Moghaddam, executive director of Iran Human Rights, said: “This tribunal will contribute to bringing about justice and, hopefully, prevent such atrocities from being repeated.
“It sends a message to the victims and their families that they have not been forgotten. It also sends a strong message to those responsible for the atrocities that they are being watched and one day will be held accountable for the crimes they’ve committed.”
Human rights lawyer Hamid Sabi, who will act as co-counsel at the tribunal, said: “Those who demonstrated are either in prison or their families put under terrible pressure.
“Those who were killed were denied funerals. Some 4,000 prisoners are in prisons because of these atrocities, and 15 of them will likely receive a death sentence. Through the establishment of the tribunal, we want the world to know what ordinary citizens are facing and urge the international community to pressure the Iranian regime to stop these atrocities.”
Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, the British barrister who prosecuted at the trial of Slobadan Milosevic and was involved at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia is supporting the establishment of the Aban Tribunal.
He said: “This tribunal will resolve – swiftly but fairly – the truth of what are said to be terrible crimes by an over-powerful state.
“People’s Tribunals fill gaps in knowledge and information, created because national and international bodies fear to tell the truth -– in the case of Iran always fearing to reveal to the public what the Iranian regime is known to do.
"This Tribunal will fill such a gap and leave information for use by bodies able now or in due course to deliver justice.
"It will also set a proper historical record of what happened in November 2019.”
The families of two victims of the Iranian crackdown, Bahman (Reza) Jafari and Ershad Rahmanian, joined the official announment today and welcomed the establishment of the tribunal.
Computer science graduate Reza Jafari (28) is believed to have been on his way to work at a car repair shop in the town of Shiraz, in south-central Iran, when he was shot four times.
Speaking from Oslo, Norway, Kamyar Admadi, whose cousin Ershad Rahmanian, a 24-year-old anaesthetics graduate who was found tortured and shot after participating in the demonstrations last year in Marivan, said: “Ershad was a kind young man who loved poetry and literature and classical music. Security agents threatened his family many times to keep quiet and say that their son had committed suicide.
“Our family expects the People’s Tribunal to reveal the actual murderer of our young man, and of other young men.”
The tribunal will build on investigations conducted by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran, the UN Secretary General, and organisations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Justice for Iran and Iran Human Rights that have found grave human-rights violations committed by state forces during the protests.
Human rights organisation, JFI, has documented incidents of the use of unlawful lethal force in 39 cities across 15 provinces, over the course of less than five days, which caused hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries.
JFI is a not-for-profit, non-governmental organisation established in 2010 in London.