The tragic death of twenty-two-year-old Mahsa Jina Amini—a Kurdish-Iranian woman arrested by the Islamic Republic of Iran’s (IRI) infamous morality police in September 2022 for allegedly defying the state’s mandatory hijab laws—has brought the brutality of the IRI’s discriminatory legal framework against women, girls, and other marginalized populations into clear focus for the global community. Amini’s death sparked waves of massive protests throughout Iran, animated by the slogan “woman, life, freedom,” serving as a rallying cry for Iranians inside Iran and in the diaspora. It is a cry of resistance against the state and of a desire to hold IRI officials accountable for atrocity crimes and human rights violations.
The IRI response to dissent has been a brutal crackdown on peaceful protesters, including internet shutdowns, excessive use of force, arbitrary arrests and detentions, sexual and gender-based violence, torture, enforced disappearances, summary trials, and even executions. These abuses of the state have left Iranians looking for internationalized responses to their plight, as domestic avenues for accountability in the Islamic Republic’s courts are not reliable for victims. Countries around the world have responded in a range of ways, including via diplomatic channels and through the issuance of targeted sanctions against individuals and entities for gross human rights violations in Iran. However, many options for justice remain underused or unexplored.
International forums and mechanisms can be used to pursue accountability for these violations. To put these mechanisms and avenues into context and to shed light on how they may apply to Iran, as well as to illustrate any limitations, the Atlantic Council Strategic Litigation Project has authored this report, which aims to provide an overview of and recommendations relating to international options that can be used to pursue accountability for human rights violations committed in Iran.
The different avenues covered in this report were selected by considering the treaties that have been ratified by Iran, international courts that do or could have jurisdiction over the IRI or relating to violations that take place in Iran, different mechanisms available in which the IRI participates under the United Nations (UN) and other international organizations, and mechanisms designed specifically to address issues in Iran. Lastly, this report ends by looking to the future and highlighting current developments in international law that, if successful, could provide new avenues for accountability.
Issue Brief Apr 19, 2023
Holding the Islamic Republic of Iran accountable for atrocity crimes
By Celeste Kmiotek, Alana Mitias, Nushin Sarkarati
Under the principle of universal jurisdiction, certain domestic justice systems allow prosecutions in national courts for crimes committed abroad, regardless of the victim’s or perpetrator’s nationality. This manual outlines the universal jurisdiction process in selected European states for those pursuing prosecutions of crimes committed by the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Report Dec 10, 2020
Closing the accountability gap on human rights violators in the Islamic Republic of Iran through global litigation strategies
By Gissou Nia
Gissou Nia presents recommendations for new laws, amendments to existing laws, and the creation of enforcement mechanisms to aid in the effort to combat impunity for the IRI’s human rights violations and atrocity crimes.