When Prime Minister Harper meets with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Ottawa this week, the Iranian nuclear threat – which is dominating international discussion along with the crisis in Syria — will no doubt be addressed. Yet, “incitement to genocide” — the terrifying and vilifying context in which Iran’s nuclear weaponization is being accelerated – may not be discussed. It should be: Genocide is the most destructive threat known to humankind.
Simply put, combating Iranian incitement is not a matter of a military intervention. Rather, it is a legal responsibility which Canada and Germany — as State Parties to the Genocide Convention – have an obligation to enforce. Indeed, as history as taught us only too well, the Holocaust — and the genocides that followed in Srebrenica, Rwanda and Darfur – occurred not only because of the machinery of death, but because of state-sanctioned incitement to genocide. As the Supreme Court of Canada found, “The genocidal horrors of the Holocaust were made possible by the deliberate incitement of hatred against the Jewish people and other minorities.”
State Parties to the Genocide Convention already understood this in 1948, in the wake of the Holocaust, such that the Convention prohibits the crime of “Direct and public incitement to commit genocide.” Incitement itself is the crime – whether or not genocide follows. The objective is to prevent genocides before they occur, by sounding the alarm on the type of state-sanctioned incendiary incitement that has in the past led us down the road to horrific tragedy and atrocity.
The Iranian regime’s criminal incitement 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.
In particular, this genocidal incitement has intensified and escalated in 2012, with the website of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei declaring that there is religious “justification to kill all the Jews and annihilate Israel, and Iran must take the helm.” Former Spanish prime minister José Maria Aznar disclosed in May that the Supreme Leader of Iran warned him that Israel was a “cancer” and must be “burned to the ground and made to disappear from the face of the Earth.” Several days later, the Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, Major General Hassan Firouzabadi, declared: “The Iranian nation is standing for its cause — that is the full annihilation of Israel,” implicating unfairly the people of Iran.
Perhaps the most ominous genocidal threat has been the most recent – the statement earlier this month of President Ahmadinejad that “Anyone who loves freedom and justice must strive for the annihilation of the Zionist regime in order to pave the way for world justice and freedom,” the whole embedded in an anti-Semitic tirade characterizing the Jews as the poisoners of the international wells these past 400 years.
Let there be no mistake about it – as the All-Party Report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Canadian Parliament found – “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 — an appalling example of the international community as bystander – reminding us also that genocide occurred not only because of cultures of hate, but because of crimes of indifference.
Canada – which has affirmed the Responsibility to Prevent as a pre-emptory norm of international law – should lead the effort to hold Iran to account. Germany, given its painful history – knowing all too well the horrors possible when state-sanctioned cultures of hate go unaddressed — should join with Canada in this effort.
Indeed, the mandated remedies existing under international law to combat such incitement include: State Parties could file a complaint against Iran — which is also a State Party to the Convention — before the International Court of Justice; they could request that the Security Council refer the matter to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, who can indict Iranian leaders as it has others; and, the UN Secretary General could be asked to refer this genocidal incitement to the UN Security Council as a “matter threatening international peace and security.” This threat of criminal sanctions — where sustained juridical remedies have brought about the indictment of seemingly immune dictatorial leaders — should be added to existing diplomatic and economic pressures meant to deter terrorism, nuclear-weapons development and massive domestic repression by Tehran.
Silence is not an option when states threaten genocide — especially when 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.” Together, Canada and Germany can take a powerful stand against such incitement. The time to act is now.
Full article published by the National Post, here.