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Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Jurists Seek to Put Iranian Leaders in the Dock

AOL NEWS July 28, 2010

Matthew Kalman

Matthew Kalman Contributor

JERUSALEM (July 28) -- As the European Union announced new, tougher sanctions this week against Iran, a blue-chip coalition of lawyers and human rights activists reiterated its demand that Iranian leaders be brought before the International Court of Justice for incitement to genocide and the brutal repression of their own citizens.

The Responsibility to Prevent Coalition, chaired by former Canadian Justice Minister Irwin Cotler and supported by a who's who of international law experts, says the government of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is "a clear and present danger to international peace and security ... and to its own people."

The group's 200-page report, "The Danger of a Nuclear, Genocidal and Rights-Violating Iran," catalogs Iranian violations of international law and human rights abuses against its own citizens. The authors argue that the international community should act now to defuse a "toxic mix" of policies that threaten world security: "the nuclear threat; the genocidal incitement threat; state-sponsored terrorism; and the systematic and widespread violations of the rights of the Iranian people."

"Iran has already committed the crime of incitement to genocide prohibited by the Genocide Convention," said Cotler, a law professor at McGill University and a Liberal member of the Canadian parliament.

In an interview with AOL News during a stopover this week in Jerusalem, Cotler said that Ahmadinejad's repeated calls for the annihilation of Israel were a clear violation of the 1948 Genocide Convention and required a response from the international community.

"The enduring lesson of the Nazi Holocaust and more recent genocides in Srebrenica, Rwanda and Darfur is that they occurred not just because of the machinery of death, but because of state-sanctioned incitement like the rhetoric we see coming from Ahmadinejad's Iran," Cotler said.

Under the Genocide Convention, Ahmadinejad could be brought before the International Court of Justice in The Hague if the case is referred to the U.N. Security Council, he said.

"States have a legal obligation to prevent Iran from carrying through with its deadly course of action," Cotler said. "Every state party to the Genocide Convention can initiate an inter-state complaint before the International Court of Justice against Iran. This is not just a policy option, but an international legal obligation of the first order."

Cotler said that Ahmadinejad's position as head of state did not give him immunity in international law. "In the case of Sudan, the U.N. Security Council referred the criminality of President Omar al-Bashir to the International Criminal Court, and the court just recently cited him also for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity," he said.

The coalition -- which includes former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, former Canadian Prime Ministers Kim Campbell and Paul Martin, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel, Lebanese scholar Fouad Ajami and Egyptian democracy advocate Saad Eddin Ibrahim among its members -- has published a dossier of Iran's alleged violations of the 1948 Genocide Convention and other international laws.

The report exposes Iran as second only to China in the number of death sentences carried out each year, with the highest number of juvenile executions anywhere in the world -- 26 in three years, with 140 more on death row. According to the rights group Stop Child Executions, Iran carried out 80 percent of all juvenile death sentences from 2005 to 2008. The coalition's report says also that Iran has imprisoned more journalists than any other country as part of a systematic policy of domestic political repression.

International pressure proved effective in securing a stay of execution in one recent case where an Iranian mother of two was sentenced to death by stoning after she was found guilty of adultery, but the coalition says hundreds more cases of abuse go unnoticed.

"In Iran there is a massive assault on human rights and the rule of law, while dangerous state-sanctioned incitement to genocide continues unabated, the whole amidst a culture of impunity," Meir Shamgar, Israel's former chief justice, said at a news conference in Jerusalem earlier this month.

At the same forum, Bassem Eid, founder of the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group, said it was time to hold Iran to account for its serial abuses of its own citizens' human rights.

"As the international community decided to present charges against the president of Sudan towards his war crimes inside Sudan, I think that's the same thing the international community should have to do towards Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran," Eid said.

Cotler, who has won support for the coalition initiative during recent trips to Australia, the United States, Jordan, Israel, Britain, Italy, Argentina and Sweden, said Monday's announcement of tougher EU sanctions against Iran were "a welcome step" but urged the international community to act with resolve.

"The main thing now is to ensure that these sanctions are enforced," he said. "In the decade 2000-2010, even while the U.S. had sanctions legislation in place, they awarded $107 billion in contracts to firms trading with Iran. Thus far, the sanctions are only targeting the Iranian nuclear threat -- a policy that is essential and necessary -- but the threat from Ahmadinejad's Iran has the three other elements: incitement to genocide, assistance to terrorism and violations of human rights. If sanctions focus only on the nuclear issue, we run the risk of appearing to ignore the other threats or even sanitize them."

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