A tribunal in London has begun hearing evidence from witnesses, activists and others over Tehran’s role in a crackdown on anti-establishment protests in Iran in November 2019 that is believed to have left at least 300 dead.
The international people’s tribunal will run until November 14, with a panel assessing whether actions by Iran’s clerical establishment constituted “crimes against humanity“ from the more than 160 witnesses scheduled to appear. A report is due to be issued by early next year.
The tribunal, which has no legal standing, was launched by three rights groups: the London-based Justice For Iran, the Oslo-based Iran Human Rights, and the Paris-based Together against the Death Penalty. The groups want to hold Iran responsible for the 2019 killings.
The protests quickly spread to over 100 towns and cities, where many chanted against Iran’s leaders, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Iran responded with lethal force, killing and injuring hundreds of protesters as well as bystanders, according to rights groups. The Iranian establishment also imposed a near-total Internet shutdown for several days to disrupt the free flow of information.
Speaking during the first day of the tribunal, Nahid Shirpisheh, whose 27-year-old son was killed in the 2019 crackdown, said authorities have pressured her family for speaking out and demanding justice.
“We’ve been threatened and arrested. [My son’s] father is currently in jail,” she said.
Amnesty International said the tribunal is “a powerful initiative against impunity.”
“The hearings at the International People’s Tribunal on Iran’s Atrocities of November 2019 are crucial for ensuring that these atrocities do not fade into oblivion,” the rights group said in a statement on November 11.
“Crucially, the tribunal must spur UN member states into action, both at the current session of the UN General Assembly and the next session of the UN Human Rights Council, to pave the way for the accountability that is so desperately needed,” it added.
Iranian officials have been almost completely silent on the death toll from the crackdown. A rare acknowledgement came in May 2020 when then-Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli said in state television that around 200 people died in the violence.