By kind invitation of Dr Denis MacShane MP, The Henry Jackson Society was pleased to host a discussion with the Hon. Prof. Irwin Cotler MP, former Canadian Minister of Justice and Attorney General, International Human Rights lawyer and Member of the Canadian Parliament. Professor Cotler launched the international report on Responsibility to Prevent Coalition and discussed the human rights abuses in Iran, with a particular focus on incitement to genocide.
I am delighted to be here tonight, and to be given the opportunity to meet friends like Denis. We have become very close parliamentary colleagues, working together on a common cause. For me to come here is a special pleasure in terms of the interpersonal connections of the Human Rights front.
What I am here to do, in the company of two of the signatories of this report, is to present the Responsibility to Prevent Coalition. Actually, this is really a consortium. Some 100 international law scholars and human rights advocates, parliamentarians, former government leaders, but also the Iranian public intellectuals and human rights advocates came together at Responsibility to Prevent Coalition, to release this international report. The basic thesis of this report is that Ahmajinedad’s Iran, and I use that term to distinguish the people and public sphere, who are otherwise the targets of massive domestic repression. You will certainly remember Neda; with her murder, a little over a year ago, she became an iconic figure, with respect to what then emerged as the Green Movement and a symbol of massive domestic repression. I regret to say that there have been many Nedas since, and recently the Iranian Government engaged in a series of extra judicial executions. You would not recognise the names, but they are the Nedas of today. This is the nature of Ahmajinedad’s Iran.
We put this together to make the point that Ahmajinedad’s Iran has emerged as a clear and present day threat to international peace and security and to Middle Eastern stability. It also has become an increasing and alarming threat to its own people, especially since the fraudulent elections of June 12th 2009. What we are witnessing today is the toxic convergence of four distinctive but interrelated threats; the nuclear threat, the incitement to genocide, the terrorist threat and the mass domestic repression. Regrettably the international community, though necessary, has only has been focusing on the nuclear threat. It has marginalised the other threats by a single minded focus on the nuclear threat. I do not want any adverse inference drawn from what I have said. I believe that the nuclear threat is a clear and present danger but I also believe that the massive domestic repression in Iran is a matter of clear and present danger and we have to look at it in a composite way. It is a critical mass threat, which requires a critical mass of revenue. Simply put, as we meet, Iran is in standing violation of United Nations Security Council Resolutions and other international prohibitions respecting the development of nuclear weaponisation programme. It is not only in standing violation, not only a serial violator, it is a serial deceiver. Our report shows, how in an ongoing way, Iran misrepresents what it is doing. It claims to be pursuing peaceful atomic energy, which in itself nobody would object to, as they have the right, like any other state, to do that. However, our report shows that the evidence clearly points out that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weaponisation program. Iran trying to develop nuclear weapons is therefore the first threat.
The second threat is incitement to genocide. Iran has already committed the crime of incitement, prohibited under the genocide convention and under international law. Our report is complete with documented evidence, with respect to the critical mass of what I call the precursor of incitement to genocide in Ahmajinedad’s Iran. The agony, the precursor to genocide, the incitement aggregate, is as great in Ahmajinedad’s Iran, if not greater, than it was in Rwanda or in Srebrenica. Yet, as we meet, not one state party to the genocide convention has taken the necessary steps, as mandated by international law, to hold Ahmajinedad’s Iran to account for state sanctioned incitement to genocide. Simply put, not one state has simply referred the matter to the UN Security Council for deliberation on accountability. It took a long time to do so, concerning the Nuclear weapons, and it has never been done with regard to incitement. Another remedy that can be used is that any signatory to the UN on the Genocide Convention can bring forward a complaint against Iran, which is also a state party to the Genocide Convention. In fact, they are obliged to implement its undertaking in front of the International Court of Justice for violations of the Genocide Convention. This would cause no harm to the people, but would certainly target the leadership, for the purpose of accountability.
The third threat is the terrorist threat, which I do not have time to go into detail on. In the report, we set forth documented evidence with regard to Iran’s involvement. They are not simply the cases of Hamas and Hezbollah, where Iran is a sponsor in terms of training, financing, etc. But I’m talking about where the Argentinian Judiciary found, in its judgement, that the Iranian leaders, thereby named, were responsible for the planning and perpetration of the greatest terrorist atrocity in Argentina since the end of the Second World War, the bombing of the AMIA, the Jewish Community Centre in 1994. Ahmed Vahidi was named by the Argentinian Judiciary as the one who planned and perpetrated that attack. There is an INTERPOL arrest warrant out for Ahmed Vahidi. I suggest the same Ahmed Vahidi has been appointed Minister of Defence in Iran to oversee the Nuclear Program at the same time that he is a former head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard for the IRGC, who we also say, need to be sanctioned.
The final threat is massive domestic repression. Our report sets forth ten categories of human rights violations. I do not like to use the word category, it gives it a kind of abstraction, there are people behind those categories and when I am speaking about categories I’m talking about those who are arrested and detained and tortured and disappeared. They are the object of executions and extra judiciary conduct. For example the plight of the Baha’i, which does not receive the exposure it warrants. The Baha’i is now the most threatened minority in Iran and we have witness testimonies documenting the flight of the Baha’i, and that the entire leadership of the Baha’i is in prison. A good deal of this comes from an emergency debate we had at the Canadian House of Commons. You would think that there would be an international outcry with regard to this, and this leads to kind of an adjacent thing here; the culture of impunity because there is no accountability at all. If you look through our report, you will see that the women’s movement, who are really at the core of the Green movement, are singled out for prosecution and persecution, and yet Iran gets rewarded by being named to the United Nations Committee on the Status of Women. I hate to use that old cliché, or notion of Orwellianism, but what more Orwellian dynamic can you have, than a country which has systematically assaulted the rights of women, ending up being elected to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, to oversee the women’s rights and their protection? It is true with regard to labour unions, the assaults on freedom of speech, the media, as we meet, there are more journalists in prison in Iran than in any other country in the world. Again, one does not hear about this assault on freedom of expression in its generic sentiment. You might hear that a famous journalist from Newsweek is imprisoned and then there is an international outcry, but you do not hear about the journalists who are being arrested, intimidated, harassed and maliciously prosecuted and persecuted, every day.
The most telling thing to do is to let the Iranian leadership speak for itself. This is not about what people have said about the Iranian leadership, but what the leadership has said about itself. We have identified 7 precursors of incitement to genocide. They conclude things such as:
1. The de-legitimisation of Israel and the Jewish people, in terms of referring to it as a forged nation, as a criminal people.
2. The dehumanisation of Israel and the Jewish people referring to them in biological terms, as a bacteria, as a cancerous tumour. The notion that you can portray them as being subhuman, which is what the Rwandan movement did in referring to the Tutsi’s as cockroaches or the same the Nazis did. I make no analogy to that but in the same use of biological metaphors, we show the biological metaphors that are used for the Jewish people.
3. Demonization. The attempt to portray the Jews and Israel as satanic people. Almost again inviting indictment upon them to use the words of the supreme leader Ali Khamenie: “There is no solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict other than the annihilation of the Jewish people.”
4. Holocaust Denial. From the floor of the United Nations General Assembly or the UN Human Rights Council, we quote Ahmadinejad’s own words about an international Jewish conspiracy, how they control the media, the economy, etc. All together they constitute state sanction and incitement to genocide. It is a violation of the Geneva Convention Article 3: Prohibition against the direct and public incitement to genocide. I have not even mentioned the thing that most people have heard about: “Israel must be wiped off the map.” I won’t even refer to that, but what most people will not know is that this notion can be found on banners, on side of buses in Teheran, and on the emblem of a Shahab-3 missile which says “Wipe Israel off the map, as the Imam said” showing that this is a religiously sanctioned incitement. But, I want to conclude by reiterating that this is not the people of Iran, this is not the public’s opinion, they have spoken out against it in the Green movement and their demonstrations. This is the leadership that is engaged, broadly speaking, in the massive repression of the Iranian people.
So let me conclude all this by saying that we believe that the international community has a responsibility. That responsibility is to combat and prevent these human rights violations, to combat and prevent this fourfold threat set forth in our report. Our 18 point roadmap is for countries, like the UK, to follow, with regard to what we call Threat Specific Remanence. We recommend remedies to teach of fourfold threats as well as generic remedies with the critical mass of threat, and we believe that this approach is what is necessary in order to hold Ahmajinedad’s Iran to account.