We have juridical remedies to halt Iran’s genocidal threat
The Canadian government’s decision to close the Canadian Embassy in Iran and expel Iranian diplomats from Canada is as important for the reasons underlying the decision as for the decision itself. In a word, Iran has emerged as a clear and present danger to international peace and security.
The Iranian threat is fourfold. Iran is in standing violation of international law prohibiting nuclear weaponization; 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, finally, Iran is engaged in the massive domestic repression of the rights of its own people.
Certainly three other considerations underpinned the Canadian decision: Iran’s complicity in Syria’s atrocities; Iran’s complicity in assaults upon diplomats from Central Asia to Central America, and the intimidation of Canadian-Iranians living in Canada.
The decision highlights — and indeed calls for — a set of initiatives to combat these Iranian threats, including:
Listing the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terrorist entity under Canadian law — something the federal government has yet to do.
Enhancing sanctions for Iran’s defiance of international law in its nuclear-weaponization program.
Sanctioning major human-rights violators in the Iranian political and juridical leadership for their criminal violations of the human rights of the Iranian people.
Undertaking mandated legal remedies under international law to hold the Iranian leadership to account for its state-sanctioned incitement to genocide, which has intensified dramatically of late.
In this last regard, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has, yet again, issued a statement condemning the recent “offensive and inflammatory statements” of the Iranian leadership. Curiously, while the statement also cited international law as authority for the condemnation — that “In accordance with the United Nations Charter, all members must refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State” — it failed to appreciate that international law requires juridical action to sanction such incitement, not just issue mere statements of disapproval.
The most recent “offensive and inflammatory” statements emanated from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who characterized Israel as an “insult to humanity” and “a cancerous tumour” while calling, yet again, for its “disappearance.”
What is missing in statements of disapproval about Iran’s words and actions — including those from Canada, the United States, the European Union, France, Germany and others — is a commitment to action. Let me be clear up front: Action in this regard need not be military; indeed, the remedy is juridical.
In a word, the Genocide Convention — framed in 1948, in the wake of the Holocaust — prohibits the crime of “direct and public incitement to commit genocide.” Incitement itself is the crime, whether or not genocide follows.
The Iranian regime’s criminal incitement has been long documented. An all-party report of the standing committee on foreign affairs of Parliament found that “Iran has already committed the crime of incitement to genocide prohibited under the Genocide Convention.”
Yet not one state party to the Genocide Convention has undertaken any of its mandated responsibilities to prevent and punish such incitement.
Closing our embassy will not stop this incendiary incitement. Neither will it sanction it; that is something that can only happen by exercising the required juridical remedies provided in international law.
Such remedies include:
Referring this genocidal incitement to the UN Security Council for accountability and sanction.
Initiating an inter-state complaint against Iran, which is a state party to the Genocide Convention, before the International Court of Justice for its standing violation of the convention.
Calling upon the UN secretary general to refer the situation in Iran to the UN Security Council as one that threatens international peace and security, pursuant to Article 99 of the UN Charter.
Requesting that the Security Council itself refer the matter to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, who can indict Iranian leaders as it has others.
Simply put, this panoply of juridical remedies — which have brought about the indictment of seemingly immune dictatorial leaders — should be added to the existing political, diplomatic and economic initiatives invoked to sanction Iran’s nuclear weaponization program, where such state-sanctioned incitement to genocide is the terrifying and vilifying context in which Iran’s nuclear weaponization is being accelerated.
Silence is not an option when states threaten genocide — especially when, like Iran, they are on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons and even boast that they can thereby bring about a Holocaust “in a matter of minutes.”
Condemnation has not served as an effective deterrent.
The time for action is now. The exemplary case made by the Canadian government for closing the Canadian Embassy in Iran is the same case warranting these targeted remedies.
Irwin Cotler is the member of Parliament for Mount Royal, chair of the Inter-Parliamentary Group for Human Rights in Iran and international chair of the Responsibility to Prevent Coalition. He is a member of the International Advisory Board of United Against a Nuclear Iran and co-chair of the Global Iranian Political Prisoner Advocacy Project. He has written extensively on Iran.
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