C-CAT Op-ed in the Canadian Jewish News: Iran's charter of intolerance


 By: Sheryl Saperia and Danny Eisen    

Canadian stakeholders have approached Senator David Tkachuk, who championed the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act ( JVTA) for eight years before it became law in 2012, with a recommendation for a new bill. The proposed legislation would enhance Canada's existing sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran, specifically targeting the regime for its terror sponsorship and human rights violations. Current sanctions relate solely to Iran's illicit nuclear weapons program. 

The proposal comes on the heels of fresh reports of Iranian contempt for human rights and international law. In March alone, Iran was caught smuggling missiles on a commercial ship, to terrorist organizations in the Middle East; a former Iranian intelligence officer admitted that Iran ordered the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which killed 270 people; an Ahwazi Arab-Iranian poet and human rights activist living in the Netherlands was kidnapped, beaten and interrogated by Iranian agents; and a Canadian court found Iran liable for its support of terrorism in a historic ruling under the JVTA. Pursuant to court orders, seven-million dollars' worth of Iranian bank accounts and property situated in Canada will be turned over to victims of terrorist groups on Iran's payroll.
Since 1979, more than 100,000 Iranians have been executed, women are still stoned to death for adultery, and Amnesty International has crowned the Iranian regime "the last [state] executioner of children." Iran has the highest per capita rate of capital punishment in the world. Even Iranian nationals living abroad have been unable to escape. Iran's death squads have killed over 100 dissidents in various countries, including the United States and several European nations. 


As torture statistics are harder to quantify, the precise number of individuals flogged, mutilated or raped under the direction of Iranian authorities is difficult to ascertain. But the pervasive use of these punishments on the multitudes passing through Iran's criminal justice system is well documented. 
All of this should make Canadians wonder: what are the Iranian regime's intentions with regard to the new charter, and what does it mean for Canadian policies on Iran?
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was a close aide of Ayatollah Khomeini and is a current devotee of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, with impeccable regime credentials. As president, he now oversees his country's assistance to Bashar Assad in slaughtering the Syrian people and the training provided by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to civilian militias that work in concert with the Venezuelan government in the violent repression of the Venezuelan populace.  
Given Rouhani's résumé and the regime's record of violating the international human rights treaties to which it is a signatory, it seems that the "Charter of Citizens' Rights" is more a "charter of values" - designed to ensconce the Khomeinist values of intolerance rather than recognize the inherent rights of all citizens regardless of religion, creed, gender or ethnicity. As noted by Nazila Ghanea, who teaches international law at the University of Oxford, the Charter's reliance on Iran's existing legal frame works brings with it "explicit discriminatory exclusions" that will legally formalize Iranian abuses in practice and in principle.

The legislative proposal to Senator Tkachuk is thus both timely and necessary. For, despite its malevolence, the Iranian regime craves legitimacy as a regional leader and world power, and bristles at international censure even while defying it. Nuclear sanctions have brought Iran to the negotiating table, and past international campaigns have successfully saved imprisoned Iranians from death. This bill will provide an additional life line to Iranians whose fates and futures are being papered over by Rouhani's charter of intolerance, and a new opportunity for Canadians to mitigate some of the cruelties of the Iranian regime. This bill is best passed sooner rather than later.  


Danny Eisen is co-founder of the Canadian Coalition Against Terror (C-CAT), and Sheryl Saperia is the Director of Policy for Canada at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD).

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