Hon. Irwin Cotler (Mount Royal, Lib.)
Mr. Chair, I am delighted to join in this take note debate on the situation in Iran.
I want to commend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and for International Human Rights on his remarks this evening, as well as my colleague, the member for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, with whom I have the pleasure of serving on the foreign affairs subcommittee.
Indeed, this take note debate is a central feature of the fourth annual Iran Accountability Week where Canadian parliamentarians from across the political spectrum have come together to sound the alarm on the toxic convergence of threats posed by the Iranian regime, the nuclear threat, state-sanctioned terrorism, incitement to hatred, and particularly the widespread and systematic violations of human rights in Iran, which will form the basis of my remarks this evening.
Iran Accountability Week this year includes witness testimony before the House of Commons Subcommittee on International Human Rights, a public forum on Parliament Hill with former political prisoners Marina Nemat and Shakib Nasrullah, press briefings, political prisoner advocacy, and will conclude with a call to action.
Among the participants are Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran; Iranian Canadian journalist, filmmaker and former political prisoner Maziar Bahari; and experts, some of whom testified today before our foreign affairs subcommittee, such as Mark P. Lagon, president of Freedom House, and the leaders of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Mark Dubowitz and Ali Alfoneh.
This year's Iran Accountability Week and our take note debate this evening may be said to occur at a most propitious if not precarious moment, as there are the P5+1 nuclear negotiations with Iran, which we hope might yet conclude in an effective agreement to prevent a nuclear Iran. These nuclear negotiations thus far have overshadowed, if not sanitized, the Iranian regime's massive domestic repression, a repression which has not only gone unabated under the leadership of President Rouhani, held out to be the newly elected moderate president of Iran some two years ago but where in fact the massive violations of human rights have in fact intensified.
Indeed, this massive repression, I suggest, should also inform and engage the nuclear negotiations for two reasons: first, the prospect of a rights-violating regime becoming a nuclear break-out state should itself be cause for concern; and second, the ongoing reality of Iran's repression and its breaches of its international commitments should cause us to question not only the validity but the veracity of any commitments made by the Iranian regime within the framework of the nuclear negotiations.
At this point I will briefly summarize some of those major human rights violations to which I have referred, the corresponding defiance of Iran's international legal obligations, and the ongoing culture of impunity which underpins these violations.
I will begin at this point with what might be called a dramatic increase, and reference has been made to this by the parliamentary secretary, in the wanton executions in Iran. In fact, we have been witnessing an unprecedented execution binge. Iran not only executes more people per capita than any other country in the world and also leads the world in juvenile executions, but the execution rate, and this has gone unnoticed, has actually escalated under President Rouhani.
In 2014, executions reached their highest level in the last 12 years with some 753 people put to death in 2014 alone, while in 2015 there has been a 20% increase in this wanton rate of execution, where already more than 300 have been executed in the first four months of 2015 alone.
This brings me to the second category of human rights violations. That is the culture of impunity. Time only permits me to give one example, but this example itself is expressive of this culture of impunity. That is the appointment as justice minister of one Mostafa Pourmohammadi, who played a leading role in the 1988 prison massacre which resulted in the execution at the time of thousands of dissidents. Mostafa Pourmohammadi was then presiding over the Evin prison death committee. The appointment of him as justice minister by Rouhani is a scandalous example of the prevailing culture of impunity.
This leads me to the third concern. This is documented by Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran, who will be the guest before our foreign affairs subcommittee this Thursday. It is the widespread and systematic use of both physical and psychological torture, which continues for coercing confessions to justify trumped-up charges and with horrific methods of torture, including whipping, assault, sexual torture including rape, and psychological torture such as prolonged solitary confinement and the like.
This leads me to my fourth category, and time will not permit me to do any more than this one. It is the plight and the pain of political prisoners in Iraq. Indeed, a centrepiece of Iran Accountability Week is the Iranian political prisoners global advocacy project, where members of Parliament adopt, as it were, an Iranian political prisoner and advocate on the prisoner's behalf.
This year I am continuing my advocacy on behalf of the seven Baha’i leaders. They are now in their seventh year of imprisonment of a 20-year sentence, which with their advanced age is a virtual death sentence. These seven religious leaders have been punished for practising their faith, a right guaranteed under international and Iranian law. Imprisoning the Baha'i leadership is tantamount to putting the Baha'i community as a whole on trial.
The second person on whose behalf I am advocating is the senior Iranian cleric, Dr. Boroujerdi. He is now in his ninth year of imprisonment. At the moment he is at risk of passive execution through the withdrawal of necessary and emergency medical care. He was imprisoned on trumped up charges for doing nothing other than advocating religious freedom in Iran, for advocating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and for advocating on behalf of other political prisoners in Iran. For that, he has not only been prosecuted, convicted and sentenced, but he continues to be persecuted in prison for doing nothing other than exercising fundamental freedoms protected under the Iranian constitution and protected under international law.
In conclusion, our Iranian political prisoners global advocacy project seeks to put us in a situation where we not only take up the case and cause of these political prisoners, but by telling their stories, we seek to make it clear internationally to the people of Iran that we stand in solidarity with them, that they are not alone, that we will continue to advocate on their behalf, and that we will not relent in our advocacy until their freedom is secured and Iran itself becomes free.
Topic: Government Orders
Subtopic: Iran Accountability Week