Legislation would end state immunity for torture identified by Supreme Court in Kazemi case
Ottawa – October 20, 2014 – MP Irwin Cotler today introduced a Private Member’s Bill (C-632) that would amend the State Immunity Act to allow Canadians to pursue civil remedies against states that commit genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, or torture. The bill would notably address the immunity for torture identified by the Supreme Court in its recent ruling barring the son of Zahra Kazemi, who was tortured and killed by Iranian authorities in 2003, from seeking redress against Iran.
In its ruling, the Court wrote: “Parliament has the ability to change the current state of the law on exceptions to state immunity, just as it did in the case of terrorism, and allow those in situations like Mr. Hashemi and his mother’s estate to seek redress in Canadian courts. Parliament has simply chosen not to do it yet.”
Accordingly, in introducing the bill, Cotler called on Parliament to exercise its legislative authority to ensure that foreign states that commit heinous crimes against Canadians are not protected by Canadian law.
Said Cotler, “It is absurd that Canadians can use Canadian courts to enforce commercial contracts with foreign states, but the doors of justice are closed on them when they seek compensation for heinous acts, such as torture. We need legislation to address the evils of international crimes that are now shielded by Canadian law, to remove the state immunity that operates to shield the perpetrators of such crimes, and to allow Canadian victims to secure justice.”
Cotler invited the Government to adopt the bill as its own, saying, “I look forward to working with Members of all parties to move forward with this long-overdue legislation.”
In 2009, with the support of Members of all parties, Cotler introduced a similar bill (C-483) that never came to a vote.