You would think the kind of genocidal behavior displayed by the Ahmadinejad government in Tehran would be in violation of international law! Well, apparently there are some experts who also think so. The legal petition for action mentioned in today’s cartoon is real. Here’s Irwin Cotler (Canadian Liberal MP and former Justice Minister of Canada) as quoted in the Ottawa Citizen:
Iran Threatens World – and Itself
Ahmadinejad’s Iran — a term used to distinguish the regime from the people of Iran — has emerged as a clear and present danger to international peace and security, to regional and Mideast stability, and increasingly, to its own people.
We are witnessing in Ahmadinejad’s Iran the toxic convergence of four distinct dangers: the nuclear threat; the genocidal incitement threat; state-sponsored terrorism; and the systematic and widespread violations of the rights of the Iranian people.
Accordingly, a consortium of international law scholars, human rights advocates, former government leaders, parliamentarians and Iranian activists for democracy and freedom — The Responsibility to Prevent Coalition — has released a report on the danger of a nuclear, genocidal, and rights-violating Iran.
Let there be no mistake about it: Iran is in violation of international legal prohibitions against the development and proliferation of nuclear weapons; Iran has already committed the crime of incitement to genocide prohibited under the Genocide Convention; Iran is a leading state-sponsor of international terrorism; and Iran is engaged in widespread and systematic violations of the rights of its people.
In the matter of the Iranian nuclear weaponization program, the coalition’s report documents Iran’s defiance of international law, and its serial deception respecting its serial violations, including: the significant expansion of its uranium enrichment to nuclear weapons-grade capability; the discovery of its hidden uranium enrichment site at Qom; its planned development of an archipelago of enriched uranium centres; and the concern of international experts that Iran is “advancing in its efforts to construct a nuclear warhead, to develop a missile delivery system for such a warhead, and a mechanism to detonate such a weapon.”
In the case of state-sanctioned incitement to genocide — building upon the lessons of Rwanda, the Balkans and Darfur — the report documents the critical mass of precursors to genocide in Ahmadinejad’s Iran, constituting thereby not only the prelude to a preventable tragedy, but a crime in and of itself under international law.
In the matter of state-sponsored terror, the report documents the emergence of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) at the epicentre of the Iranian threat. A former head of the IRGC — Ahmad Vahidi, now Iran’s Defence Minister overseeing Iran’s nuclear program — was named by Argentina’s judiciary as being responsible for the planning and perpetration of the greatest terrorist atrocity in Argentina since the Second World War, the bombing of the Jewish Community Centre in 1994.
In the matter of human rights, the report documents the widespread and systematic violations of the rights of the Iranian people, including: the beatings, execution, killing, torture and other inhumane treatment of Iranians; the systematic and widespread oppression of a minority — the Bahá’í as a case study; the exclusion of, and discrimination against, religious and ethnic minorities; the persistent and pervasive assault on women’s rights; the murder of political dissidents; the assault on freedom of speech, assembly and association — including assaults on students, professors, activists and intellectuals.
The list of violations goes on: the imprisonment of more journalists than any other country in the world; the crackdown against cyber dissidents; the assault on labour rights; the wanton imposition of a death penalty, including the execution of more juveniles than any other country in the world; the denial of gay and lesbian rights — all of which is accompanied by show trials and coerced confessions, and is constitutive of crimes against humanity under international law.
There has been an intensification of human rights violations in Iran since the fraudulent presidential elections last year, including state-sanctioned escalation in each of the categories detailed above. There is in Ahmadinejad’s Iran a culture of impunity, the denial of due process and the absence of an independent judiciary.
Accordingly, the report, drawing on international law principle and precedent, sets forth a comprehensive set of remedies — smart sanctions — to punish and contain Ahmadinejad’s Iran. The goal is to target the Iranian regime and its leaders, while not harming, and indeed protecting, the Iranian people.
While recognizing the gravity of the Iranian regime’s nuclear ambitions, we must be careful not to focus on this threat alone and risk marginalizing the other three threats. It is by recognizing the totality of the regime’s predations that the case for comprehensive, calibrated, and consequential sanctions becomes undeniable. The international community would do well to organize its policy around the findings and recommendations in this report. Sadly, the perfunctory G8 statement on Iran appreciated neither the gravity of the threat nor the imperative of the response.
Irwin Cotler, a former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, has written and lectured widely on international human rights law. He is Chair of the Responsibility to Prevent Coalition.