Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this take note debate on human rights violations in Iran, which is as urgent as it is necessary. Indeed, the violations of human rights in Iran, the persistent and pervasive assault on the human rights of the Iranian people, has only intensified since our last take note debate here some 15 months ago. As I said then, and as remains no less true today, “Ahmadinejad, Khamenei’s Iran”. I use these terms to distinguish from the people and public of Iran who are otherwise the targets of massive domestic oppression. The Iranian regime has emerged as a clear and present danger to international peace and security, to regional and Middle East stability, to diplomatic protection and increasingly and alarmingly so to its own people, which has inspired this evening’s take note debate.
As I said in this House a year ago, and on several occasions, Ahmadinejad’s Iran is characterized by the toxic convergence of four distinct threats that are closely related: the nuclear threat, the threat of incitement to genocide, the threat of state-sponsored terrorism, and the systematic and widespread violation of Iranians’ rights.
Let there be no mistake about it. Iran is in standing violation of international legal prohibitions respecting the development and proliferation of nuclear weapons. Indeed, there have been six chapter VII UN Security Council resolutions prohibiting the enrichment of uranium for a nuclear weaponization program. Iran has already committed the crime of incitement to genocide prohibited under the genocide convention. Iran is a leading state sponsor of international terrorism. The year 2012 alone has witnessed Iranian terror’s footprints in such terrorist assaults from Azerbaijan to India from Thailand to Washington from Malaysia to Argentina. Iran is engaged in massive domestic repression of the rights of its people, which will be the subject of the balance of my remarks, though the other considerations have their human rights connection and fall-out, as I mentioned.
We meet on the fourth anniversary of the imprisonment of the entire Baha’i leadership, each sentenced to 20 years or re-sentenced to 20 years after an appeal brought it down and then re-sentenced to 20 years for such trumped-up charges as, “insulting religious sanctities, propaganda against the state”, charges utterly without foundation, reminiscent of the old Soviet tactic “give us the people and we will find the crime”. Indeed, their reinstated 20-year sentences now constitute an effective death sentence given the advanced age of the entire Baha’i leadership. Despite repeated requests from both the defendants and their attorneys, neither official copies of the original verdict nor the ruling on appeal have been disclosed to date.
The plight of the Baha’i in Iran offers a looking glass into the plight of human rights in Iran in general, and the criminalization of innocence, as finds expression in the criminalization and targeting of Iran’s largest religious minority in particular. Simply put, the persecution and prosecution of these Baha’i is a case study of the systematic if not systemic character of Iranian injustice as a whole, including arbitrary arrest and incommunicado detention, false and trumped-up charges such as “spreading corruption on earth” and “espionage for foreign elements”, coerced confessions, torture and detention, denial of the right to effective counsel, denial of the right to introduce any evidence in one’s defence and the ominous threat always of execution along with the intimidation if not arrest and imprisonment of one’s own family and lawyers. I will address this more fully in the second part of my remarks this evening when I will concentrate on what has happened just in these last few days to the Baha’i, the gays and lesbians, to students, political prisoners and the like.
Moreover, while we have been understandably preoccupied with the slaughter of innocents in Syria where Iran itself has been implicated and where we have been involved in the necessary addressing of the nuclear threat question of Iran, Iran’s massive domestic repression has been passing only too quietly under the international radar screen. Indeed, in the aftermath of the recent Iranian parliamentary elections, marred by the imprisonment and silencing of all opposition, the state-sanctioned assault on the human rights of the Iranian people not only continues unabated but is widened and intensified.
Only two days after the March 2 parliamentary elections, Tehran’s revolutionary court sent prominent lawyer and co-founder of the recently shuttered Centre for Human Rights Defenders, Abdolfattah Soltani, to an 18-year prison sentence and a 20-year ban on his legal practice. The trumped-up charges again included the usual ones, and one particular one: the crime of establishing a human rights group and also of receiving “an illegal prize”. What was this illegal prize for which he was condemned? It was the receipt of Germany’s Nuremberg International Human Rights Award.
The Nuremberg Award is a powerful symbol of that city’s denunciation of its dark past and embrace of peace, reconciliation and respect for human rights. That Iran would criminalize such an award is a striking testament to the culture of repression that reigns today in Ahmadinejad’s Iran.
Mr. Soltani’s imprisonment was followed by the imprisonment of another human rights lawyer, Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, who was a founder of Iran’s Centre for Human Rights Defenders.
The latest example of an ever-widening campaign to crush all forms of dissent in Iran are the recent reports by international human rights bodies that describe the regime’s systematic use of arrests, beatings, torture, detentions, kidnappings, disappearances and executions.
Just two months ago, the UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran released a scathing report documenting in his words, a “striking pattern of violations of fundamental human rights”. In a mocking and almost obscene retort, the Iranian leadership in response characterized itself, and I am using its words, as “a pioneer in human rights”. It might well have characterized itself as a pioneer in human rights assaults.
For example, Iran, which already has the highest per capita rate of executions in the world, is engaged, as we meet, in an ongoing execution binge, even by its own wanton standards with more than 60 people having been executed in January 2012 alone, a pace of execution that is continued. There has been a dramatic rise in the number of executions from less than 100 cases in 2003 to at least 670 in 2011. That too will be surpassed in 2012 if the rate of execution continues as it has.
Moreover, Iran’s religious an ethnic minorities, already victims of massive de facto and de jure discrimination, are disproportionately represented among the ranks of the imprisoned and condemned. As of this writing and as we meet, 15 members of the Kurdish community have been sentenced to death on such trumped-up charges as corruption on earth and espionage. While the announcement that Iran has upheld a death sentence against Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, convicted of apostasy for abandoning Islam, has not only stunned Christian groups in Islam, it has also been attended by the recently targeted assault on the Christian communities in Iran.
As I have said, but it bears repetition, yet again we are witness to the imprisonment of the entire Baha’i leadership, not only its political leadership but its educational leadership, some of whom are even graduates of Canadian universities; the exclusion of and discrimination against religious and ethnic minorities generally; the imprisonment and silencing of more journalists, bloggers and filmmakers than any other country; the persistent and pervasive assault on the women’s rights movement and the imprisonment of the women’s rights leaders; the criminalization of fundamental freedoms of speech, association and assembly; and the assaults upon and imprisonment of student leaders.
As we meet, there has been a crackdown and arrest in the last month alone of student leaders and trade union leaders. There have been assaults on filmmakers, artists and culture generally, in effect, the shutting down also of all independent civic organizations, NGOs and the like.