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  • Writer's pictureRebecca Mooney

Talking to the BBC's Jiyar Gol about the arrest of Hamid Noury, an Iranian national, in Sweden.

Updated: Apr 17, 2021

In November 2019, Iranian national Hamid Noury was arrested arrival at Stockholm's Arlanda Airport. Since then, he has been detained on remand, whilst the Swedish War Crimes Unit investigates allegations that he was involved in the notorious prison massacres in Iran in 1988.

On the orders of Ayatollah Khomeini, in a short period of about six weeks in the late summer of 1988, thousands of political prisoners and so-called 'apostates' were summarily executed in a number of Iranian prisons.

The prison massacres have been extensively documented. Yet, until our legal representations and dossier of evidence submitted to the Swedish authorities resulted in Noury's arrest, no suspect had ever been arrested outside Iran. Noury is the first person ever to have been arrested outside Iran on suspicion of involvement in those atrocities.

After Noury's arrest, the Swedish authorities assumed responsibility for the criminal case, in accordance with state responsibilities under international and domestic law to investigate grave international crimes.

Noury has been brought before the Stockholm District Court for regular review of his on-going detention, pending indictment and trial. At the second arraignment hearing in December 2019, the court heard submissions from the state prosecutor, and from the accused, who made representations in person and through his state-assigned defence lawyer. The court ruled that a further extension of his detention without bail was justified, because of the severity of the crimes of which he is accused, and because of the 'flight risk' of a foreign national.

As I explained to the BBC's Jiyar Gol, the allegations against Noury are sufficiently serious to justify the assertion of 'universal jurisdiction' by Swedish authorities. Save for the presence of Noury on arrival within the Swedish jurisdiction, the alleged crimes, and the accused, have no ostensible connection to Sweden. Universal jurisdiction only applies to extremely grave crimes, including for example war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide, where individual culpability is recognised in international law. Individual nation states can potentially exercise jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute those very serious international crimes against non nationals, and in relation to crimes alleged to have occurred in a different country. It is because of the gravity of the crimes alleged to have been committed during the 1988 prison massacres, which are recognised in international law, that jurisdiction of a foreign state, in this case Sweden, over a foreign national suspect, such as Noury, can be asserted.

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