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Rajai Shahr Prison Closure; Intentional Destruction of Evidence of Crimes Against Humanity

7 Aug 23
Rajai Shahr Prison Closure; Intentional Destruction of Evidence of Crimes Against Humanity

Iran Human Rights (IHRNGO); August 7, 2023: State media have reported the evacuation and closure of Rajai Shahr (Gohardasht) Prison. This is while the prison is the site of the mass atrocities committed throughout the 1980s and the 1988 prison massacre of political prisoners. Last year, a Swedish court sentenced Hamid Noury to life imprisonment for his role in the massacre at the prison.

Iran Human Rights calls for urgent action to stop the demolition of the prison and the destruction of evidence of crimes at the prison which reached its peak in the 1988 massacre.

Director, Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam said: “Gohardasht Prison is the place where crimes against humanity were committed by those who currently hold key positions in the Islamic Republic. We still don’t know the full scope of those crimes and destroying the evidence is without doubt one of the key motivations behind its closure. The justice movement, Iranian civil society and the international community must do everything in their power to prevent the prison’s demolition.”

According to state media, the Head of Judiciary, Mohsen Ejei, ordered the closure of the prison on 6 April 2023, with the evacuations starting on 1 July and ending on 5 August.

An informed source told Iran Human Rights: “Prison authorities told the prisoners that the prison had been sold for 10,000 billion tomans (€200 million) without naming the buyer and would soon be evacuated.”

The closure and impending demolition of the prison is taking place after a Swedish court sentenced Hamid Noury to life imprisonment for his role in the 1988 Massacre last year and his case is currently at the appeal stage.

As well as being the location of mass executions in the 1980s, the prison has also been the location of thousands of executions in the last three decades. According to data collected by Iran Human Rights, at least 530 executions took place just for murder charges at the prison between 2015-2022. 

Authorities have claimed that the prison closure and transfers are “in line with the implementation of the law on transferring existing prisons and educational centres outside of cities (approved on 28 November 2001).” However, evidence shows that Rajai Shahr Prison’s evacuation is part of the intentional and systematic efforts by Islamic Republic authorities to erase all traces of the crimes they have committed at the prison throughout their years in power, particularly that of the 1988 prison massacre. Such crimes are not restricted to just Rajai Shahr Prison.

Furthermore, in a visit to Mashhad in February, the Head of Judiciary announced Mashhad Central Prison would also be closed and moved to the outskirts of the city. Mashhad Central Prison is another prison where mass atrocities took place in the 1980s. In an official letter to Ruhollah Khomeini, his deputy, Hosseinali Montazeri specifically raised the issue of female prisoners being tortured and raped at the prison at the time.

The letter which was written in the summer of 1988, reads: “Do you know that in Mashhad Prison, around 25 girls had to have their ovaries or uterus removed because of what was done to them? Do you know that in some Islamic Republic prisons, young girls are forcibly raped?”

There have also been multiple reports of government efforts to destroy Khavaran cemetery over the years and specifically over the last three years. Thousands of political prisoners executed in the 1988 Massacre were buried in mass graves in Khavaran without names and place markings.

Last year, hundreds of the families of the victims of the Islamic Republic called on the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to prevent the “destruction and any manipulation” of Khavaran Cemetery by the authorities.


Photos of Gohardasht Prison published by state media after its closure: