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Irwin Cotler, MP

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Cotler Letter to Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon

Posted on September 21, 2012

Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon
New York, NY 10027

Dear Secretary-General:

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s upcoming address to the 67th session of the United Nations General Assembly – presently scheduled for Wednesday, September 26th – is a cruel parody of law and justice that will put us on the wrong side of history. Let there be no mistake about it: A person who pursues the most destructive of weaponry in violation of UN Security Council Resolutions, who incites to genocide, who is complicit in crimes against humanity, who is engaged in a massive repression of the human rights of his own citizens, who assaults the basic tenants of the United Nations Charter - such a person should be the object of an indictment by this international body, rather than the beneficiary of its respected podium.

As you are aware, the General Assembly represents an opportunity for world leaders to unite and engage in peaceful discourse and dialogue on the basis of a shared respect for international law and human rights. Indeed, pursuant to Article 1 of the United Nations Charter, the United Nations seeks to “Bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace.”

Accordingly, offering this international podium to President Ahmadinejad is to make a mockery of international law, human rights and, indeed, the United Nations itself. Simply put, he is a man who should be in the docket of the accused rather than given an audience before this peace-seeking body.

President Ahmadinejad’s many crimes are well documented. Under his leadership, Iran continues its complicity in state-sponsored terrorism abroad while massively repressing its population at home; it also pursues nuclear weapons in defiance of the IAEA and the UN Security Council. As President of a state actively assisting the Syrian government in committing crimes against humanity and war crimes, President Ahmadinejad has effectively violated every basic tenet of the UN Charter.

Moreover, in the matter of Iran’s state-sanctioned incitement to genocide – in violation of international law and the Genocide Convention’s prohibition against “direct and public incitement to genocide” – the evidence here is particularly compelling and disturbing, as President Ahmadinejad’s genocidal incitement is the terrifying and vilifying context for Iran’s illegal pursuit of nuclear weapons. Last month alone, as you appreciate, President Ahmadinejad called to “remove the Zionist black stain from the human society”, adding that “the very existence of Israel is an insult to humankind and an affront to all world nations”, and requiring the wiping out of this “scarlet letter from the … forehead of humanity”.

Indeed, this state-sanctioned culture of hate and incitement to genocide has been persistent, pervasive, and pernicious. The 21st century began with Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei calling for “the annihilation of the Jewish State.” It was followed by the parading in the streets of Tehran of a Shihab-3 missile draped in the emblem “Wipe Israel off the map, as the Imam says.” It has continued with the use of epidemiological metaphors referring to Jews as “filthy bacteria,” and Israel as “a cancer that must be removed,” reminiscent of the Nazis calling the Jews “vermin” and the Rwandan Hutus calling the Tutsis “cockroaches,” the whole as prologue to and justification for a genocide foretold.

Indeed, how can a UN forum host one who openly and avowedly seeks the destruction of a Member State? As you yourself said recently in Tehran, “I strongly reject threats by any member state to destroy another or outrageous attempts to deny historical facts, such as the Holocaust” – yet, President Ahmadinejad continues to call for the destruction of Israel while denying also the Holocaust.

Further, under President Ahmadinejad, Iran has intensified its oppression and persecution of religious minorities, especially the Baha’i – Iran’s largest such group – whose members are subject to harassment, repression, torture, imprisonment, and execution, let alone the widespread and systematic assaults on women, students, workers, dissidents, journalists – and those who would defend them.

In light of the foregoing, it is clear that President Ahmadinejad is not deserving – and this is an understatement – of the General Assembly podium. In this regard, I strongly urge you as Secretary-General to request that the United Nations Security Council take action to prevent the Iranian President from addressing the General Assembly. In particular, this can – and should – be done pursuant to your power under Article 99 to refer issues that “threaten the maintenance of international peace and security” to the Security Council. Simply put, there is no greater threat today to international peace and security, to regional and Middle East stability, and to the rights of his own people, than President Ahmadinejad’s Iran.

Given President Ahmadinejad’s hateful and incendiary incitement, flagrant disregard for principles of international law, massive repression of domestic human rights, and complicity with international terrorism, providing him with an opportunity – indeed privilege – to speak to the community of nations is simply as unacceptable as it is unworthy of the United Nations. My fellow Parliamentarians and myself would implore you to exercise your authority under Article 99 to prevent this affront to the United Nations, its Charter, and human decency.

Thank you for your consideration in this matter,

Professor Irwin Cotler, MP
Co-Chair, Inter-Parliamentary Group for Human Rights in Iran
Chair, International Responsibility to Prevent Coalition

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