Perpetrator: Seyed Shamsedin Kazemi
Seyed Shamsedin Kazemi
- Prosecutor for the Dezful Revolutionary Court in the 1980s
- Currently: Senior Attorney at Law in Dezful, and a member of Khuzestan Bar Association
Human rights violations:
As the prosecutor for the Dezful Revolutionary Court in the 1980s, Seyed Shamsedin Kazemi contributed to the torture and massacre of political prisoners. He was part of a notoriously brutal committee, known as ‘the Death Committee,’ in 1988. The group decided which prisoners would live and die and based their judgments on only a few questions asked of prisoners about their political and religious beliefs.
In August and September 1988, thousands of political prisoners were executed under Ayatollah Khomeini’s Fatwa (religious order), pursuant to intelligence and judiciary authorities’ decision. At the time of the mass executions, prisoners had already served, or were currently serving their prison sentences.
In his testimony to Justice for Iran, Javad Qalavand recounts Shamsedin Kazemi’s role in torturing his brother, Yahya Qalavand, a political prisoner executed in 1988:
‘My brother was called Yahya. He was detained on 1 September 1982 and though sentenced to 10 years in prison, he was executed in 1988. The tortures he went through at prison left him castrated and blind in one eye. Yahya suffered from stomach problems. The authorities didn’t allow us to take him to a physician outside the prison. We took medication for him, but they didn’t give them to him, or they gave him little. It was the case until he had stomach bleeding and we could take him to a doctor in Andimeshk. Yahya was accompanied by three prosecutors of EUNESCO prison, Shamsedin Kazemi, Gandomkar and someone else whom I didn’t know. They drove him in a Peykan to a hospital outside the city. The hospital was called the Lion and Sun prior to change of name to Red Cross after the 1979 revolution. Kazemi and his agents didn’t allow an Iranian physician to visit Yahya lest he might be impressed by seeing signs of torture in his body. They had a Pakistani physician examine him. After the examination, the physician became furious and yelled at prosecutors for having tortured and castrated Yahya. It was very hurting for my father and our fellow citizens who were present there.’
Mohammad Reza Ashough is one of the few prisoners who survived the 1988 massacre in UNESCO prison of Dezful. The prison building now serves as a teacher’s hotel. In his testimony to Justice for Iran, he recounts of Shamsedin Kazemi’s involvement in torture and prisoner abuse:
‘Each time I was flogged with 40 lashes. Kafshgiri, some guards and a prosecutor by the name of Shamsedin Kazemi flogged me. While I was lying fastened on the bench, Kazemi came to me, touched my bloody clothes, and in a vernacular language told me: ‘Mohammad Reza! This blood is shed for Masoud and Maryam. I refused to approve his statement. They continued torturing me and then confined me to a prison cell. I went through this torture six times a day for 11 months.’
Mohammad Reza Ashough was sentenced to death by the Death Committee in Dezful. In his testimony to Justice for Iran, he has mentioned Shamsedin Kazemi as a member of the Death Committee:
‘On 30 July 1988 we were told a pardon committee had arrived to release some prisoners. They took us to the prison yard. There were about 80 or 100 of us. We were blindfolded, denied the right to an attorney and defending ourselves. We were all serving our imprisonment sentences issued by the regime’s courts. They asked us one by one to take off the blindfold. It was my turn. One of them asked me whether I was Muslim, and I answered ‘yes I am. My father says we are Muslims.’ He said, ‘If you are Muslim, are you prepared to fight for Islam?’ I could not understand what he meant, so he asked, ‘Would you fight for Iran?’ I replied, ‘I would if my country were in danger.’ He asked, ‘If anybody attacked our country, would you fight at the frontier?’ I answered, ‘I would if it were necessary and if I were not imprisoned.’ He continued ‘you say I am Muslim; would you walk through a minefield and be prepared to die for Islam?’ I replied that I was not a fool to walk through a minefield just because I was Muslim.
The committee consisted of Mohammad Hossein Ahmadi [Shahroudi] -the religious judge-, Alireza Avaei, Shamsedin Kazemi, Hardavani – the prison governor-, and the intelligence ministry representative. There were two lists of prisoners. The intelligence ministry agent told them put my name on a special list. The interrogation was over, and they told me put back my blindfold. Then it came to other prisoners whose interrogations lasted similarly not longer than one minute and the committee issued execution sentences.’
The massacre of political prisoners in 1988 Iran has been recognized as a crime against humanity by international human rights lawyers such as Jeffry Robertson, as well as by the Iran Tribunal people’s court and Human Rights Watch.
The United Nations recognises the 1988 massacre victims’ cases as enforced disappearances. Enforced disappearance is a human rights violation and a crime under international law. The crime is not subject to statutes of limitations, and charges may be initiated at any time, until the person concerned is found or their fate is determined. According to international law, the Iranian regime should guarantee the families of victims their rights to knowing the truth about the fates and burial places of their loved ones and hold accountable those responsible for such crimes.